The 1st of November is the Feast of All Saints on the Church Calendar.
“I believe in… the Communion of Saints” goes the line in the Apostles’ Creed.
But, just what does that mean? When I first started to reflect on the Creed I was pretty limited in my thinking on the subject and only thought about Holy Communion. The taking of the Sacrament of blessed bread and wine in order to, in the words of the Apostle Paul, be in communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.” (1st Corinthians 10:16-17)
Then as I started to think about it more deeply I realized that while this aspect is important it only scratched the surface. The Feast of All Saints means much more than those people living today and coming to the Communion Table. The Feast of All Saints is for ALL SAINTS – All those living, all those no longer living, All those yet to be born but already known to God – ALL SAINTS. The Communion of Saints therefore is more than those to my left and right at the rail waiting for a bit of bread and sip of wine.
Being within the Communion of Saints is to take one’s place in the grand tradition of faith: The list of Old Testament heroes such as Moses, David, and Samuel among many others listed in Hebrews chapter 11, the first disciples called by Jesus, the many who were converted by the Apostles, and the many great church leaders from the first century until now as well as the multitude of faithful who are known only to God. People like Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Patrick, Nicholas, Francis of Assisi, Bishops Cranmer, Latimer, and Ridley, the many modern leaders, and the kind man and kind woman you know who share the love of God as a simple matter of daily living. The Communion of Saints is that we with them are all part of God’s Church. Those living in the Church militant, those who have left this life in the Church Expectant, and we wait together to be unified in the Church Triumphant on the day of the Resurrection.
It is important to remember this – the Communion of the Saints is being a part of the ongoing identity of the Church. It is sometimes helpful to consider this when in a very old church. (Unfortunately there are very few of those in the United States but there are some and if you have a chance you can visit some when traveling abroad – regardless any church of any age can do.) Consider all those who have prayed in those same pews. Consider the confessions made, the praises voiced, the supplications asked. Think of those baptized into a new life and those buried in the promise of the Resurrection. Kneel at the Communion Rail and ponder the thousands (maybe more) that have knelt there before to receive the Sacrament that Jesus started in the Upper Room and will continue until the joyous heavenly banquet set for all of God’s people. Take time to enjoy All Saints – taking your place in the never ending Communion of Saints.
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those inexpressible joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen