Some of you ultra-protestant, almost anti-Reformation free churcher types, are going to bristle:
As martyrs fell, these public cemeteries became the repositories of holy relics. The bodies of Saints Peter and Paul, along with many others, were interred in such subterranean labyrinths along Rome’s Appian Way. The Liturgy was celebrated directly over their graves, and the Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood became a daily act of preparation by believers for the Lord’s Return. Saint Paul had reminded them that by doing this “you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
Liturgy is the communal labor of devotion and prayer to God. Leitourgia, which literally means “the work of the people,” is, in the words of contemporary writer Benjamin Williams, “that celebration of the church, which has its origins in God’s revelation, by which believers worship God and in the process are formed into the church. That is why the Eucharist is the focal point of the liturgy; it is in the Eucharist that we receive New Life by the grace of God.”
During the Liturgy, invocations were commonly offered to the newly arrived citizens of heaven. Some of these prayers, scratched into the stone, can be seen even today. Prayer to the saints was a natural extension of normal brotherly communication. Since it was common to ask for the prayers and blessings of living Christians, how much better to ask the same of them once they had gone to the Lord?
A few things to draw from this.
One, is the daily life of the believer. What we do, we become. Lex orandi, et. al. If we celebrate the liturgy, we become more orthodox. If we speak as if they are merely departed, we learn that they are merely on the other side and thus awaiting us. Because of this, is it that far away to ask for their help as we would someone on this side?