We continue our series on…
The A- Z of the Christian Faith
A for All Saints
We say each week in the Creed that “We believe in the communion of Saints.” I wonder if we ever think what this means? Once a year, on All Saints Day (1st November) we have a special celebration of all the saints, known and unknown, in heaven and on earth. But if we are unaware of the Saints the rest of the time a dimension is lost in our Christian lives. If we believe that “neither life nor death… can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” then we can have a real sense of ‘communion’ with people from all lands, all times, and all traditions: they are indeed our brothers and sisters in Christ.
We belong to a church which takes a ‘middle way’ with regard to the Saints. While not ignoring them as many Protestant Churches do, we do not give them the central position that they have in the Catholic Church. Many Anglicans would find it against their beliefs to pray to the saints, as we pray to God in Christ Jesus. But if we believe they are in heaven, and we have fellowship with them, we can ask them to pray for us, just as we ask each other.
A belief in communion with all the Saints can stop us from being too parochial, too narrow. The saints are international – from every culture and country upon the earth – Asia and Africa and America; all places have produced holy men and women who have been shining lights either to their own people, or to those of many countries. St. Peter was a first century Jew in Palestine and a fisherman. St. Francis was a rich young Italian living in the 12th and 13th centuries. St. Augustine was a great writer, teacher and bishop from North Africa.
The saints are ecumenical –divisions belong to the earthly church, but unity and holiness to heaven. We sing hymns written by Catholics, Methodists, and Presbyterians. We use prayers written by people from different parts of the Church of God: yet because we sing them, we make them Anglican. Saints spring up in all the Churches, and have always done so.
And lastly, the saints are beyond time – or put another way they are for all times. Our earthly lives are short. WE see only a fraction of history – perhaps 70 or 80 years. But we can relate to, and learn from, people who lived centuries ago – through their life stories, their writings, art or music, or through religious orders or works of charity they began. All wisdom does not belong to the 20th/21st centuries. There is a rich treasure house in the past as well as the present.
So think about the great company of saints as your fellow Christians, for that is what they are. Perhaps you could have a word with them sometimes?