Skip to comments.The Apostles' Creed in the Scriptures, the Fathers,....THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS [Ecumenical]
Posted on 06/07/2008 8:27:49 PM PDT by Salvation
"If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12, 26-27).
The Communion of Saints is the union that exists between all the members of the Church on earth, in heaven, and in purgatory. Those members on earth comprise the Church Militant; those in heaven, the Church Triumphant; those in purgatory, the Church Suffering.
These three Churches, strictly speaking, form but one Church existing in three different states whose Head is Jesus Christ: "so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another" (Rom. 12, 5). Every member has his own place and part to perform, not merely for his own benefit, but for the benefit of the whole Church: "And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, then healers, helpers, administrators, speaking in various tongues" (1 Cor. 12, 28). All the good works performed within the Church, and all the Churchs spiritual treasures, are beneficial to all Her members.
The Church Militant is so-called as its members are still but wayfarers, working out their salvation in "fear and trembling" (Phil. 2, 12) struggling against the "world, the flesh and the Devil": "he who endures to the end will be saved" (St. Matt. 10, 22). Only those who persevere can reach their goal; there can no reward for the weak and faint-hearted.
The members of the Church Militant are in communion with each other by:
(i) Obedience to the same visible authority established by Christ Himself, that is, the rock of St. Peter and his successor the Pope of Rome;
(ii) Professing the same faith publicly as one body, such as the recitation of the Nicene Creed at weekly Mass. Through such, all the faithful are "united in the same mind and the same purpose" (1 Cor. 1, 10);
(iii) Assisting one another with their prayers and good works: "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6, 2).
In other words, "it is a matter of communion with God through Jesus Christ, in the Holy Spirit. This communion is to be had in the Word of God and in the sacraments. Baptism is the door and the foundation of communion in the Church The communion of the eucharistic Body of Christ signifies and produces, that is, builds up, the intimate communion of all the faithful in the Body of Christ which is the Church."1
No member of the Church Militant, whatever his condition, stands alone: "If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (1 Cor. 12, 26-27). The Church Militant is not a collection of individuals having their own "personal relationships with Christ" to the exclusion of all others. To commune with Christ requires a communion with His Body, for one cannot claim to possess the Head to the exclusion of the Body: "and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (Eph. 1, 22).
It is entirely appropriate to describe the Church in heaven as triumphant, for its members are those who have fought the "good fight" and have reached their port of destination. This triumph is reflected in the brightness of the Just in heaven: "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory" (1 Cor. 15, 41). Each member of the Church Triumphant will be crowned in reward for his or her victory: "I have fought the good fight, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that day" (2 Tim. 4, 7). The Devil and his cohorts have been frustrated in their efforts to destroy these souls, and now they reign with their heavenly Lord and Master as their eternal reward.
As we are united with Christ our Head in heaven, so are we united with His members triumphantly reigning with Him. Death in no way impedes our union with the Church Triumphant, any more than it impedes our union with Christ Himself. Together, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant unceasingly bless and praise God. Further, we can ask the Saints in heaven to intercede on our behalf to obtain Gods blessings and favors. When those in heaven see that one on earth has turned away from evil to do good they immediately express their joy: "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (St. Luke 15, 10). The Saints enjoy the same Beatific vision as the angels and hence are also witnesses to the struggles of the saints on earth: "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" (Heb. 12, 1).
The Church Suffering, though its members have also been found worthy to share in eternal life, are obliged to undergo a period of purgation, or cleansing, for their unforgiven venial sins and / or lack of penance for mortal sin duly forgiven. This purgation, though temporary, is effected by purifying fires that burn at the soul: "If any man's is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire" (1 Cor. 3, 15). From the writings of Mystics, Doctors and Saints, we know that these fires burn with a degree of intensity not found on earth, inflicting the acutest pain. Hence, the appropriateness of the term "Suffering."
Our communion with the Church Suffering is effected by praying for the souls in purgatory, by assisting them through good works and penances, especially the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: "But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin" (2 Macc. 12, 45). Through such acts of charity, the Holy Souls earn an abatement of their sufferings; and they, in turn, will in gratitude pray for us. The Fathers Origen, On Prayer 11, 2 (Post 231 AD):
Origen, On Prayer 11, 2 (Post 231 AD):
"Now the one great virtue according to the Word of God is love of ones neighbor. We must believe that the saints who have died possess this love in a far higher degree towards the ones engaged in the combat of life than those who are still subject to human weakness and involved in the combat along with their weaker brethren. The words If one member suffer anything, all the members suffer with it, or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it are not confined to those on earth who love their brethren. For the words apply just as much to the love of those who have left this present life...the solicitude for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is scandalized and I am not inflamed?" St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius 6 (406 AD):
St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius 6 (406 AD):
"You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard; and this is especially clear since the martyrs, though they cry vengeance for their own blood, have never been able to obtain their request. But if the Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs." St. Augustine of Hippo, The Care of the Dead 15, 18 (421 AD):
St. Augustine of Hippo, The Care of the Dead 15, 18 (421 AD):
"The spirits of the dead are able to know some things which happen here, which it is necessary for them to know. And those for whom it is necessary that something be known, not only the present or the past but even the future, - they know these things by the revealing Spirit of God, just as not all men but the Prophets, while they lived, knew not all things but those which the providence of God judged ought to be revealed to them." St. Augustine of Hippo, The City of God Against the Pagans 20, 9, 2 (Inter 413-426 AD):
St. Augustine of Hippo, The City of God Against the Pagans 20, 9, 2 (Inter 413-426 AD):
"Neither are the souls of the pious dead separated from the Church which even now is the Kingdom of Christ. Otherwise there would be no remembrance of them at the altar of God in the communication of the Body of Christ." Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566)
Catechism of the Council of Trent (1566):
For the unity of the Spirit, by which she is governed, brings it about that whatsoever has been given to the Church is held as a common possession by all her members...The same may be observed in the Church. She is composed of various members; that is, of different nations, of Jews, Gentiles, freemen and slaves, of rich and poor; when they have been baptized, they constitute one body with Christ, of which He is the Head. Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992):
No. 954: The three states of the Church. "When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is": All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.
All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together.
No. 957: Communion with the saints. "It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from which as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself": We worship Christ as Gods Son; we love the martyrs as the Lords disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples! (Martyrium Polycarpi, 17).
We worship Christ as Gods Son; we love the martyrs as the Lords disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples! (Martyrium Polycarpi, 17).
No. 958: Communion with the dead. In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and because it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins she offers her suffrages for them. Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.
PS. Many faiths say this exact Apostles' Creed either in their services or otherwise.....thus, I believe it is an Ecumenical thread.
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All Christians are saints - the New Testament has many, many, many such references. The Bible forbids any attempt to communicate with the dead, including dead saints. The communion of the saints is the communion of the living. There is no reference in the New Testament to any communion with the dead.
No such place as purgatory exists, so no one is there.