Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Communion of All Saints

On 1 November we celebrated All Saints’ Day – a feast in which we, the saints on earth, celebrate and honour the Saints of God in Heaven i.e. all the holy men and women who have gone before us and now enjoy the Beatific Vision, whether they have been officially canonised by the Catholic Church or not.
[As a side note, if you didn’t already know it, that’s why Hallowe’en – or Hallow’s Eve – is on 31 October].
The lives of the Saints should be an inspiration and encouragement to us because they show us what God can do in our lives if only we will be open to the immense grace that He constantly pours out upon us – most especially in the Blessed Sacrament.
As Catholics, we believe in the Communion of the Saints (which we constantly affirm when we profess the Apostles' and Nicene  Creeds). Part of what this means is that there is only One Church in which all of God’s People are united – on earth (the Church Militant), in Heaven (the Church Triumphant), and in Purgatory (the Church Suffering).
I believe in the Communion of Saints with all my heart – and I even try my best to practise this belief by praying for others, seeking the intercession of the Saints, and praying for the suffering souls in Purgatory as often as possible. Unfortunately, I also struggle with the tendency to “theologise” things too much – and hence I think I can sometimes miss the true beauty of what the Church teaches in its utter simplicity. I suppose you could say that I sometimes struggle to exercise the childlike faith that God so often requires of us.
But you know what is amazing? God is all mercy. And this past week, he allowed me to experience the Communion of Saints in its simplicity. After receiving Holy Communion on All Saints’ Day, as per my usual custom, I was reflecting on the wonder of receiving Our Blessed Lord in Holy Communion. And while I was reflecting, the choir began singing the Litany of All Saints.
As we sang the antiphonal responses (St. xxxx....Pray for us), I was overwhelmed with a sense of the presence of the Saints in our worship. And why not – since the book of Hebrews tells us that when we gather for Mass, we are spiritually lifted up to worship with the Saints in Heaven, who are also witnesses to our lives (Heb 12:1,22).   
But the thing that really struck me the most was that our Communion with the Saints exists precisely because of the Eucharist. When we receive the Lord Jesus – Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity – in Holy Communion, it is through this Communion that we are brought into greater unity (communion) with the Body of Christ throughout the world and through all the ages.
I wanted to share this little experience, because it was a reminder that theology is important – after all, I couldn’t have understood what I was experiencing without the theology behind it – but what is far more important is truly living and experiencing the faith that we believe.