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September 20, 2005

Ch. XXX. Q. 162. What is the Communion of Saints?

THE COMMUNION of Saints is a mutual interaction of life and operation, whether conscious, or unconscious, which exists between the members of the Mystical Body of Christ, wherever they are and under whatever conditions they may exist.1

2. The basis of the Communion of Saints is the life and vital energy which permeates and unifies the Body of Christ. This Communion is, therefore, (a.) vital, and depends upon the spiritual life of Christ's Body which we receive in Baptism: (b.) organic, and not dependent for its origin or continuance upon our wills. The members of Christ act and react upon each other necessarily: (c.) reflective, in that the Saints have communion with each other through Christ, Who is the focus and mirror, as well as the principle, of every spiritual force in His Mystical Body: (d.) personal, involving possibilities of personal contact and communion not otherwise available.

3. The veil of death modifies, but does not destroy this Communion; and this fact has profoundly influenced the devotions of the Church Militant. But spiritualism, which seeks direct communication with the departed by occult means, whether successful or not, is sternly forbidden in Holy Scripture2; and appears to be, ordinarily at least, under the control of evil spirits, so that we may not avail ourselves of such communications without presumption.

4. The Church Militant has always offered prayers—especially in connection with the Eucharistic Sacrifice—for the faithful departed, and for the consummation of their bliss. Thus she implies her belief, otherwise capable of demonstration, that such prayers are worth offering and are answered, although they cannot change the final destiny of souls.3

5. It is also certain that the faithful departed, as well as the holy angels (Q. 81. 2), pray for the Church Militant; although with what knowledge of earthly events and with what explicitness of petitions we do not know.4

6. The practice of addressing the faithful departed for their prayers for us with such language as ora pro nobis, the Invocation of Saints was also universal in the Church Militant for at least one thousand years, receiving sanction in the Church's Offices both East and West, and still having such sanction in the Greek and Latin Communions. But the Church as a whole has never committed herself to any theological interpretations of the practice, nor to any assertions as to its value, necessity or universal propriety. All such questions, and the further question as to whether the departed hear such invocations lie within the domain of speculative opinion. The practice has, in fact, been abused; and, since its encouragement is not essential to the maintenance of the Catholic religion, the Anglican Communion has acted lawfully both in repudiating what she describes as the "Romish doctrine concerning . . . invocation of Saints," and in ceasing to, provide official forms of invocation.5

7. The practice of invocation may be interpreted, in its higher forms at least, as nothing more than an exercise of that rhetorical and poetic license of devotion which the Church herself employs when she invokes the angels and the spirits and souls of the righteous, in the Benedicite, to praise God and magnify Him. If, however, the saints are thought to hear and be moved to acts of intercession by such invocations—an opinion which this Church neither condemns nor sanctions—the following axiomatic principles should he borne in mind: (a.) It is their righteousness and spiritual wisdom which makes the prayers of the saints at rest peculiarly powerful6: (b.) This power may excel in degree and certainty, but does not differ in kind from that which belongs to the prayers of the faithful on earth: (c.) Our attitude toward the saints departed when asking for their prayers should be the same in kind, however intensified, as that which we may lawfully assume when we ask the saints who are in flesh for their prayers: (d.) We can not address the saints as exercising a personal mediation like that of Christ, nor can we offer Eucharists to them without being guilty of at least material idolatry, whatever our formal intention may be.7 The subject demands more careful and patient treatment than it usually receives from either its opponents or its advocates.8

1 Collect for All Saints, cf. Acts II. 42:1. Cor. XIII. 25-27: Ephes. IV. 11-16, 25: Heb. XI. 39-XII. 1; XII. 22, 23: I. John I. 3: Rev. VII. 3-17. Pearson on the Creed, IX. 620-634: Schouppe, XIX. 108-113: Moehler's Symbolism, §§ 52, 53: Hutchings on the Holy Ghost, 142-146: Mason's Faith of the Gosp., VII, 10: Maclear's Introd. to the. Creeds, 236-243: Grueber's Church Militant, 141-163.

2 Exod. XXII. 18: Lev. XIX. 31: XX. 6, 27: Deut. XVIII. 10, 11: Isa. VIII. 39: Mic. V. 12: Gal. V. 20. cf. I. Sam. XXVIII. w. I. Chron. X. 13

3 cf. Commendatory Prayer: the petition, "Thy Kingdom come": II. Maccabees XII. 42-45: II. Tim. I. 18. S. Thos., III. sup. III. 73: Grueher's Church Mil., 153-158: Forbes' 39 Arts., XXII. pp. 312 et seq: Luckock's After Death, Pt. I: Schouppe, XIX. 114-117, 118-120: Forbes' Considerations, Vol. II. 88-113.

4 Jerem. XV. 1: Zech. I. 12: II. Maccabees XV. 14: S. Luke XVI. 27- 31: Rev. V. 8: VI. 9-11; VIII. 3, 4. S. Thos., III. sup. 72. 3 vel 74. 3: Grueber's Church Mil., 149-152: Luckock's After Death, Pt. 11: Schouppe, XIX. 138-141: Forbes' Considerations, Vol. II, 142-185.

5 Forbes' 39 Arts., XXII. 378-424: Grueber's Church Militant, 142-149: 158-163: Percival's Digest, 172-174: Luckock's After Death, 255-260: Notes and Quest. from Pusey, 99-102: Forbes' Considerations, I86-313: S. Thos., III. sup. 72. 1,2: vel 74. 1, 2: Schouppe, XIX. 138-140.

6 S. Jas. V. 16-18

7 Acts IV. 10-12: XIV. 11-18: I. Tim. II. 5: Heb. IX. 13-15: XII. 22-24: Rev. XXII. 8, 9

8 Pusey's Church of Eng. a True Portion, 99-114: Second Letter to Newman, 15-19: Blunts Theol. Dic., "Beatification," "Canonization": Grueber, 152, 153.

Posted by Trevor at September 20, 2005 08:10 PM