November 1, 2016
A friend recently commented to me that we don't truly appreciate the beauty of the teaching on the Communion of Saints. The Solemnity of All Saints provides us with a good opportunity to reflect on the Communion of Saints. What is the Communion of Saints and what should it mean for us? It is by way of these two questions that I reflect on All Saints Day this year.
Solemnity of All Saints
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has numerous references to the Communion Saints. Here are three statements that briefly summarize the Church's teaching on the Communion of Saints.
1. "The Church is a 'communion of saints'" The one body of Christ is the holy things, firstly the Eucharist, then the "unity of believers."
2. "The term "communion of saints' refers also to the communion of 'holy persons' in Christ who 'died for all,' so that what each one does or suffers in and for Christ bears fruit for all."
3. "We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church."
These statements teach us that we are already part of the communion of saints. There is a unity of the faithful, living and dead, that unites us to Christ and one another. We tend to separate ourselves from those who have died, and fail to appreciate the beauty of our communion with them even after they depart this life for the next. There is a phrase in Preface I for the Dead that always strikes me with the beauty of this reality; "Indeed for your faithful, Lord, life is changed not ended…."
What this means for us is that our membership to the communion of saints began at our Baptism, and continues into eternity. That is as long as we die as faithful members of the body of Christ. In the midst of our life here, the joys and sorrows, the victories and failures, our virtues and faults, we are sharing in the communion of saints. Christ and all other members of the communion of saints are united to us in all the above that we experience in life. This means that we are never alone, there are multitudes of faithful, here on earth, in purgatory and heaven who are united to us and cheering us on with their prayers.
It also means that our lives and prayers are united in such a way to Christ and the other members of the Communion of Saints that we are called to pray for them. Most of us probably are doing this. It happens when we pray for dead, when we call upon the saints to intercede for us, and when we pray for the needs of others personally or generally who are in need of prayers.
This is a teaching that is so important that it is included in the Apostles' Creed. This Creed is believed to go back to the Apostolic times and was formerly written in the 5th century. It ends with the paragraph: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen."
Let us not underestimate the communion of sins, rather become more aware of it, and that we are part of this wonderful communion. May our awareness draw us deeper into this beautiful mystery of the Body of Christ that unites us to Jesus and to one another, living or dead.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.