ALL SAINTS, ALL THE TIME
Every Sunday we say the Creed right after the homily, and towards the end of that profession of faith comes the phrase “communion of saints.” Today being All Saints Day, that phrase has a special prominence. We have no trouble connecting the phrase in the Creed with today’s feast, and the mental picture that springs to mind, almost automatically, is a heavenly assembly, the gathering of all the holy ones of God at the end of time in everlasting praise and joy. Even with all the saints that appear in the Church’s calendar, whose lives we remember as we pass through the year, we still tend to see this feast as a kind of prophetic celebration, one that points forward and orients us to the final harvest of holiness in the Kingdom of God.
We are not wrong to do that. This is a kind of anticipatory celebration of the New Jerusalem that is the end of our pilgrimage. And yet the festival of All Saints is not only a future tense reality – it also carries weight in the present, and this in at least two ways. First of all, we know that there are saints among us, men and women who are yet alive and who are totally dedicated to the Kingdom of God and its dual commandment of love of God and love of neighbor. Oh, we know that they’re not perfect, but even their imperfections seem imbued with a quality that opens them up ever more deeply to life with God and service of their neighbor. We learn from them and benefit from their example as surely as we are edified and instructed by the stories of the lives of saints who lived and died long ago.
And that suggests the second way that All Saints Day is a present tense sort of thing. The English phrase “communion of saints” translates the Latin “communio sanctorum,” which can be read as either “communion of saints” or “communion of holy things.” Most of the time we quite understandably lean towards the first reading, but the second is also valid and important to our understanding not only of the heavenly assembly, but also of the Church on earth and its relationship to the saints of God who are in glory.
For we are not only the fans and admirers of the saints – we also receive from them. Another way of speaking of a communion of holy things is as a sharing of spiritual goods, a partaking in the blessings that God bestows on his people through his people. For in the Church and in the Kingdom the workings of divine love are always self-diffusive. A gift is given to one so that it can be handed on to others. A specific person receives a specific gift, not so that he has the exclusive rights to it, but so that he can share it with others. No one has a lock on the blessings he has received; they are given precisely in order to become the common property of all the members of the Body of Christ.
One of the main, best conduits for such a sharing of spiritual goods is prayer. Prayer takes many forms, and here at St. James we have only recently begun First Friday Eucharistic Adoration. From 7 p.m. to midnight this Friday, the Hall is open for quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. These hours are for asking and for sharing in what we need and what we have, as we pray for our families and our parish. Please come and join us.
Fr. Bob Sprott, O.F.M.