There is a common idea that human beings are not really special, valuable, or important. We know that we do not live at the center of the universe but in a fairly random place three quarters of the way out in an average spiral galaxy which itself is just one of billions. We occupy an inconceivably small part of the universe. With this discovery we have learned that we are not actually special. We are just a small and insignificant species. We really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I have heard versions of this argument from almost every thoughtful atheist with whom I have had the pleasure to speak about such things.
This problem is that this argument includes a hidden assumption which is almost certainly false. The assumption is that the value of something is directly proportional to its size and location. The larger the amount of space something takes up, the more valuable it is. The closer something is located to the center of the universe, the more valuable it is. (Though my physics friends tell me that the center of the universe itself is growing along with space-time, so perhaps this should read the center of the center.) But why do they think so? Why can’t something be small or rare and valuable? In fact, one might think that the rarity of something increases rather than decreases its value. Similarly, why do they believe that the most valuable things exist at the center of the center of the universe? I see this assumption as utterly unjustified. But once we reject this assumption, it is hard to see how to draw any inferences at all concerning our value from our physical size and location.
You can see that the borderline of this discussion is quite simple: atheists deny the value and unique characteristics of our civilization and use this argument in order to prove that God doesn’t exist while we claim that the location of our planet shouldn’t be taken into consideration when we discuss matters which have nothing to do with physics, they are all about faith.
Why ask the saints to pray for us? Wouldn’t it just make more sense to go to the source? Why not just send my prayer requests directly to Christ?
These are good questions. In his wonderful new book on the Trinity, Fr. Michael Gaitley provides an intriguing and daring answer to this question. His answer comes in three steps.
Step One: Christians Become Incorporated Into Christ. It isn’t that Christians become Christ-like or similar to Christ in some way. They literally become part of the Body of Christ. This isn’t a metaphor. Rather there is a literal ontological change that a Christian undergoes when she comes incorporated into the Body of Christ. Christ literally dwells in us and we dwell in him.
Step Two: After Death, the Saints join in with the Second Person of the Trinity. Heaven, on this view, is a participation in the inner life of God. We participate in the inner life of God by means of the Second Person of the Trinity. He writes that our participation in the life of the Trinity is to become one of the persons of the Trinity. Specifically, we become part of the Incarnate Son (p. 55). Now we will never become the Divine Head, but we will somehow be incorporated into the Divine Body of the Second Person. We will become a small part of it. We will join in with the activity that takes place within the inner life of God. In this way, we will reign with God over all that is. We will reign with him because we will literally be incorporated into him.
Step Three: Praying to a Saint is Another Way of Praying to Christ. When we ask a saint to pray for us, what we are doing is praying to the Body of Christ. Because the saints are literally incorporated into the Second Person, God the Father can act through the saints much as he acts through Christ. They are in complete harmony with the Father and have become a small bit of the Second Person. Praying to a saint is another way of praying to Christ.
I consider this a daring and thrilling understanding of the saints. It makes sense of many otherwise puzzling ideas like how we will reign with God But we still must be careful to distinguish the Head from the Body within the Second Person. This image also gives a much more interesting understanding of heaven and how God will one day be all in all.