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Diana Da Silva wrote:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

  • I would like to know what does Communion of Saints mean?

It is mentioned in the prayer I Believe.

Regards,

Diana

  { What does the word Communion of Saints mean in the prayer I Believe? }

John replied:

Hi Diana,

The Communion of Saints, in Catholic (and Orthodox) theology, is another way of saying the Body of Christ, the Church, or the People of God. However, the phrase implies an organic unity and connection between all Christians whether they are on Earth or in the presence of God.

Let's start by first looking the words themselves:

The word Communion comes from the Greek word Koinonia. From that word we derive the words like, fellowship (partnership), economy, and communication.

Saints is comes from the Greek word Haggia, which means holy or set apart.

So Communion of Saints, means the fellowship and spiritual economy of those people set apart by and for God. This means that blessings that God bestows on one believer are to be shared amongst all believers. The prayers you say are effective for your life but can be offered for myself. Because this holy economy encompasses the entire Church throughout the ages, the prayers of the faithful departed can be effective for the living. In the same way, the prayers of the living are effective for the faithful departed still being purified.

This doctrine is found throughout the Scriptures but is most vividly described in the Books of Ephesians, Hebrews, and Revelation.

In Ephesians, St. Paul talks about all believers being seated in Heavenly places with Christ Jesus. St. Paul goes on throughout this epistle to talk about the unity of the One Body of Christ, the family of God on earth and in Heaven. (Ephesians 3:15)

In Hebrews Chapter 12 we read a description of Christian worship as follows:

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in Heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant."

Hebrews 12:22-24

In Revelation chapters 4 and 5 we see Heavenly worship, a Divine and perpetual Liturgy, which as we speak, is ongoing before the throne of God.

That same Liturgy is made present to us at Mass or we could say, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, enter into that Liturgy, at every single Mass.

In Revelation 5:8 we specifically see that our prayers are united with the prayers of the Saints in Heaven. We read the following:

8 . . . the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:8

Protestants also believe in the Communion of Saints, but don't understand all the implications. Their understanding is that the Saints in Heaven are separated from the Saints on earth, therefore, only the living can pray for the living, because the dead are in the presence of God and can't see the living. They are also very concerned that Catholics fall into idolatry or even sorcery when we ask the dead to pray for us. This concern is misguided and based on both a misunderstanding of Scripture as well as a misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine.

For starters, the Bible teaches that those in Heaven can clearly see what is happening on Earth.
Hebrews 11 enumerated scores of Old Testament Saints who died awaiting the promise of redemption. Hebrews 12 starts by saying:

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . ."

Clearly the word Therefore is a reference to everything that had just been previously stated. What was previously stated was a long list of dead people in presence of Christ. The Cloud of Witnesses is a reference to those in the presence of Christ seeing those of us on the earth.

Additionally, those in God's presence are only dead in terms of the body. They are spiritually alive in Christ.

Another aspect that our Protestant brothers don't fully grasp is what it means to be In Christ. If you and I are In Christ, then wherever we are, there, Christ also is. Conversely, wherever Christ is so are all the members of Christ's Body. If we are In Christ and our deceased brothers and sisters are In Christ, then, mystically, they are, wherever we are and vice versa. The only difference is that we are limited by the physical dimensions of time and space. They are not.

Nevertheless, I would like to offer one defense for our Protestant brothers. There are many Catholics that are so caught up in their devotion to a particular Saint, like the Blessed Mother,
they appear to down play Jesus Christ. This becomes a source of scandal for them. Their argument is that Christ is the One Sole Mediator.

It is true that Jesus Christ is the One Mediator between God and man yet we, as members of His Mystical Body, share in His mediation as co-laborers for the sake of the Gospels. The Bible does call Jesus, the One Mediator. But lets look at the context.

5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, 7 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle — I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying— a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. 8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere."

1 Timothy 2:5-8

Protestants, quickly point to verse 5 and see there is only one Mediator.

OK then, what are you going to do with the subsequent verses?

Paul says he was appointed an Apostle. Well, an Apostle is someone who is set apart, commissioned and sent with the authority of the one sending him. Another term for Apostle could be ambassador.

  • What do ambassadors do? <They mediate!>

Now look at verse 8: Again we see the word therefore. That means it is referring to what has just been stated. After the therefore in verse 8, Paul tells us that men everywhere should pray.

  • Whom is Paul referring to?

Does Paul say,

"I desire all the living members of the Church to pray?" No, Paul says,
men everywhere!; that includes here on earth or in the presence of God.

In fact, as we've seen from Revelation 5 and Hebrews 12, the saints in Heaven pray, praise and worship with us.

The other noticeable place where we see the term Mediator in connection to Jesus is in
Hebrews 12:24

"to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel."

Hebrews 12:24

But this verse has a context and we've already discussed it.

In this context we see that this mediatorship is mentioned in union with the Communion of Saints, described in detail in the preceding verses. The reason for that is simple. The Church is the Body of Christ. Christ is the head of the Body. You can never separate the Head from the Body or the Body from the Head. Nor can you separate the shoulders from the neck, the arms from the shoulders and so forth. At least you can't do it without seriously handicapping the Body.

This brings us back to the definition of the Communion of Saints and it's implications.

The Communion of Saints is nothing short of the Body of Christ, fully united to Jesus the Head and to each other, whether on earth or in God's presence. It is an organic and inseparable union whereby everything that effects one member, effects everyone in the Body. It is a Divine Spiritual Economy in which the Holy Spirit is the common:

  • Currency
  • Language, and
  • Unifying Force.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Diana replied:

Good Morning Brother in Christ,

Thank you for sending a quick reply for my query on the Communion of Saints.

I would also like to thank you for having this web site. May God bless you and your ministry.

With love and prayers from your sister,

Diana

Please report any and all typos or grammatical errors.
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