Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Augustine on Sacrifice & Praying to the Saints

I quoted Augustine briefly on the subject of the sacrifice of the mass in this post earlier. In book 22 of "The City of God", he reaffirms this belief (which he takes for granted, he does not argue for it).
he asked our presbyters, during my absence, that one of them would go with him and banish the spirits by his prayers. One went, offered there the sacrifice of the body of Christ, praying with all his might that that vexation might cease.
After providing numerous examples of the Christians praying at the relics of St. Stephen and being miraculously healed, he demonstrates against the charges of the pagans (which now the Protestants make against us) that the Christians did not worship the martyrs nor was it the martyrs' (saints') power who effected these miracles. Instead:
But our martyrs are not our gods; for we know that the martyrs and we have both but one God, and that the same. Nor yet are the miracles which they maintain to have been done by means of their temples at all comparable to those which are done by the tombs of our martyrs. If they seem similar, their gods have been defeated by our martyrs as Pharaoh's magi were by Moses. In reality, the demons wrought these marvels with the same impure pride with which they aspired to be the gods of the nations; but the martyrs do these wonders, or rather God does them while they pray and assist, in order that an impulse may be given to the faith by which we believe that they are not our gods, but have, together with ourselves, one God.
And more potently:
but to our martyrs we build, not temples as if they were gods, but monuments as to dead men whose spirits live with God. Neither do we erect altars at these monuments that we may sacrifice to the martyrs, but to the one God of the martyrs and of ourselves; and in this sacrifice they are named in their own place and rank as men of God who conquered the world by confessing Him, but they are not invoked by the sacrificing priest. For it is to God, not to them, he sacrifices, though he sacrifices at their monument; for he is God's priest, not theirs. The sacrifice itself, too, is the body of Christ, which is not offered to them, because they themselves are this body.


Chad Toney said...

Are you sure this isn't those eeeville, modern, Roman Catholic pop-apologists I keep hearing about? Sure sounds like their work!

Kim said...

I thought Augustine was "all ours"! (the Protestants) lol

Joseph said...


Nice. I will retort with "No, just the parts that, after much parsing, you like." -- the Catholics.

Kim said...

Joseph, I hope you know I was being sarcastic. :) Were you also?

Rene'e said...

I am enjoying your posts on Augustine, I have a difficult time reading his books, because of the writing style, but you place what he is saying into a context in such a way, that even I can see the bigger picture.

Thanks... and keep them coming.

P.S. Kim, I knew what you were refering to. :)

Joseph said...


Of course! :)

Kim said...

Good! Phew!

Thos said...


That's a good post. I remember reading elsewhere in Augustine (either this work, or his Confessions, since those are all I've read (and they were plenty, thank you very much)) where he rebuked his mother for leaving cakes or some other offering at a shrine for a saint. This was in Northern Africa, of course. It wasn't that the shrine was bad, but that the offering to the saint was bad, so it lines up nicely with your post. Just thought I'd share.

Peace in Christ,

Joseph said...


That was in "Confessions".

Weekend Fisher said...

On the sacrifice at the martyr's shrine (in Augustine's Confessions), Monica stopped sacrificing because the bishop (St Ambrose) had forbidden those -- not only because they often involved getting drunk but also because the annual sacrifices for the dead so resembled pagan practices.

Take care & God bless