Modern man has excommunicated himself from the cosmos.
For man was made for communion, but sin has disconnected and divorced man from all of the people and things he was made to commune with.
And so man has 4 crises of communion, and each man wages 4 kinds of war:
War with God (theological conflict)
War with other men (sociological conflict)
War with himself (psychological conflict)
War with creation (ecological conflict)
But God has become man to redeem man and the cosmos and to restore man to the blessed communion for which he was lovingly created.
The phrase “communion of saints” communes with the phrase “holy catholic Church,” for they are both conversing with each other and us about the same truth. This truth, the communion of saints, in its broadest sense, is the union or fellowship which the saints have with God, with the angels, and with one another. “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23).
But the phrase “holy catholic Church” also happily communes with phrase “I believe in the Holy Ghost,” for the Holy Spirit of Christ indwells the Body of Christ. All that follows in the rest of the Creed is what Jesus Christ is doing in obedience to the will of the Father and by the Holy Spirit. And “I believe in the Holy Ghost” communes with “I believe in God the Father Almighty” and “in Jesus Christ His Son.”
For the communion of saints we profess begins with our communion with God. God Himself IS the eternal communion of life and love which is the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This love of God, which IS God, spilled over into His creation, which He created out of and for love and communion.
God’s desire to have communion with man is demonstrated not only by his creating man in his image but also in his taking on human nature at the Incarnation. This fellowship with God is created by our fellowship with Jesus Christ, for we are adopted children of God only because of our life in the eternal Son of God. The inner communion which God has always shared with Himself as the Trinity is now shared with men by their union with Jesus Christ, who is both God and man.
Communion with God in Christ is not an abstract truth: it means communion with Christ in his Church, for to be one with Christ is to be one with his Church. This is especially manifest in Baptism, by which a person is both united to Christ and made a member of the Church (see Romans 6:4-5). This communion with God which is established in Baptism is maintained by the Holy Communion, which both expresses and creates communion between God and the Church, and among the saints (see 1 Corinthians 10:16-17).
This communion of saints with Christ in the Church is manifested in the unity of the Church in numerous ways:
- unity in the Church
- unity in God
- unity in faith
- unity in baptism
- unity in the Lord’s Supper
- unity in fellowship with one another
As St. Paul teaches: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Ephesians 4:4-6).
This blessed communion of saints is shared across time and space because there is only one Body of Christ, of which every saint who ever has lived, who is alive right now, and who ever will live are joined together in Christ. We refer to that part of the Church who has passed from this life as the “Church triumphant,” while that part of the Church still here on earth is called the “Church militant.” The saints in Paradise are one with the saints on earth.
This is the communion of saints which we confess: let it also be the communion of saints we both perceive and embody in our lives.
Prayer: “O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Collect for All Saints Day from the Book of Common Prayer)
Jan van Eyck – Adoration of the Lamb – in U.S. Public Domain