All Hallow’s Eve- better known as Halloween- is the feast day before All Saints (Nov 1), within the Western tradition. Seeing as it is that season, I believe it is appropriate to discuss what the Communion of Saints is, and how this relates to the life of the Christian.
“Credo in Spiritum Sanctum,
sanctam Ecclesiam catholicam, sanctorum communionem…”
This statement, taken from the Apostle’s Creed, roughly translates as:
“I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints…”
What does the Communion of Saints have to do with anything? Isn’t that just some theological jargon that crusty old seminarians use, that was cooked up during the dark days after the legalization of Christianity within the Roman Empire? And, isn’t it just something that we recite in the Apostle’s Creed, that is mentioned in Catechism class, and doesn’t really affect me?
The answer to all these questions: WRONG.
The Communion of Saints is integral to the Christian faith. It is the confession that Chirst has defeated death, and the He truly is the “Life of all the living”. The living in this case, referring to those who live in, with, and through Him.
It is the confession that for the Christian death does not seperate those in Heaven from those on Earth; all are part of the same Body, whose Head is Christ.
“But, where is THAT in the Bible”, you may be asking. “The phrase ‘communion of saints’ isn’t in the Bible!” Yeah- neither is the Trinity, and most Christians still profess that our God is Three in One, and One in Three. The fact of the matter is, the doctrine of the Communion of Saints is in the Scriptures, especially in the New Testament.
In particular, there are three particular pieces of Holy Writ that I would like to examine:
1) Luke 20: 38– “Now he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live to him.”
Jesus Himself says it. God is not the God of the dead. This because God is Life, and in Him there can only be life. To be “dead to God” is to seperated from Him. This leads directly into the next verse.
2) John 15: 4-6– “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
God is the God of the Living. Sin places a rupture and break in humanity’s communion with the Trinity. And moreover, our continual sin divorces ourselves from God. But when Christ abides in us, and we in Christ, that rupture is repaired. Those whom are “dead to God” are “raised with Christ”. We only live in, with, and through Christ. Apart from Him, we can do nothing, for we are dead in our trespasses. “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”3) Hebrews 12: 1-3 – “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
All those united to Christ are truly alive, and are one Body. Therefore, just as we are in Christ, they too are in us. They are the “great cloud of witnesses” who have run the race and gone before us. They serve as examples to us on how we are to live. From the Apostles, to the Virgin Mary, to the Martyrs, to countless Christians. They point us to the Way- Jesus Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.
These fathers and mothers are not merely just exemplars of Christian living. They are still engaged in activity. Theses Saints are not idle; on the contrary, they are extremely active. Doing what, you may ask? The very thing we as humans are created to do- to worship. When we on Earth gather together in Christ’s name, our worship unites with the unending worship of the Saints in glory. This is why in some Liturgies we proclaim-
“With Angels and Archangels and all the Company of Heaven, we praise You and sing….”
Remember- our worship mirrors and is an image of the worship of Heaven.
It also says that the Saints in heaven pray. All throughout Revelation is the mention of a “golden bowl” or “censer”, which was offered up before God, and was the prayer of the Saints. Now, you may say, this represents our prayers. Rightly so. However, do not be deceived- those in Heaven still pray. Again in Revelation, it states that martyrs are beneath an altar, beseeching God to bring justice and avenge them.
What does all this have to do with anything? Simple- belief in the Communion of Saints is a belief that Jesus did what He came to do. He has reconciled all to God through the forgiveness of sins. He has ransomed us to from the Devil. And He has slain death. To confess that those in Heaven are just as alive as we on Earth, and that we are united to them in Jesus, is to fly in the face of what the world teaches us concering death. For the Christian, death has truly lost its sting.
Next time you are thinking you’re alone in your walk: YOU’RE WRONG.
Next time you think that it “just me and Jesus”: YOU’RE WRONG.
Next time you think that death seperates you from those asleep in Christ: YOU’RE WRONG.
As one theologian put it- “Being is communion”. We are created to be in communion. And when we are in communion with Almighty God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit- we are enternally and inseparably united to all others in communion with Him as well. We are One Body in Christ. Death holds no sway over us, for “Christ has trampled down Death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”.