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Quodlibet 22 - Old Testament Saints

Saturday, June 05, 2010
Why have some pre-New Testament people (like St. Anne and St. Joachim) become Saints while others like Isaiah and Moses have not?

A saint is a follower of Christ, someone that has accepted Christ's offer of salvation. Whilst those that lived before the Incarnation did not have the opportunity to accept or reject Christ during their time on Earth, this did not make their redemption impossible. In the Apostles Creed we assert that Christ descended to the dead. After his death, then, Christ continued his mission by preaching the Gospel even to those that had died (1 Peter 4:6). Hence the death and resurrection of Christ extends throughout history, past, present and future for the salvation of all. Those among the dead that accepted the Good News became followers of Christ as he led them into heaven.

Historically the Greek Orthodox Church has privileged Old Testament saints more than the Latin West, for example, the Melkite (Greek or Byzantine Catholic) calendar honours St. Moses, St. Hosea and many other prophets. In the Latin West, with some interesting exceptions, we have tended to emphasise in our liturgies those saints whose lives were imitations of the life of Christ. Isaiah, however, is honoured in the Roman Maryrology which dates back to 1600. It seems as though popular devotion to St. Anne and St. Joachim, the parents of Our Lady, has its roots in a Greek cult that dates back to the fourth century and moved west in the thirteenth century thanks to the medieval bestseller 'The Golden Legend.'

Nicholas Crowe OP


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