Communion of Saints Part II
Church Triumphant, Church Militant, Church Suffering
What, again, “The Communion of the Saints” It is the veneration of the Saints the gift of honor to the celestial beauty resplendent in them, to the graces by which they are enriched in reward of sublime virtues put into practice, of noble deeds done in the service of the Sovereign Master.Again, misrepresentation and calumny. The veneration of the Saints, it was asserted, is a derogation in favor of the creature from the supreme worship due to the Creator a sacrilegious reaction from the monotheism of true religion to the polytheism of pre-Christian paganism.
God alone is Creator and Sovereign Master: to Him alone is given such adoration and worship, as would imply in its object supreme sovereignty. So far as the terms, adoration and worship, have come to mean the recognition of supreme sovereignty, adoration and worship ascend only to God. To think or to act other wise, were, indeed, idolatry, the reaction from Christian truth to pagan polytheism. But how far from this perverseness must we not account the veneration of the Saints, as it is believed and acted upon in the Catholic Church? In the Catholic Church the veneration of the Saints is nought else than the recognition of the sparklings of divine truth and goodness that constitute sainthood sparklings from the eternal Fount of all truth and all goodness, the eternal and Almighty God sparklings to be admired and revered as proceeding from God and imaging in the Saints God s own infinite essence. In its immediate object honor paid to the Saints is partial and secondary: in ultimate analysis its object is God Himself whom we honor, when, for His sake, we honor His servants and beneficiaries. The most exalted of the Saints, the Virgin Mary, receives veneration only because of the choice made of her to be the Mother of the Incarnate, and of the copious graces following upon this choice : “ For behold all generations shall call me blessed, because He that is mighty hath done great things to me, and holy is His name” By the veneration of the Saints, nothing, assuredly, is taken from the supreme worship due to the Almighty God: rather, it is an ungracious and unwarranted shortening of that supreme worship, to refuse the honor of love and reverence to those whom God is delighted to honor, in whom glows resplendent the reflex of His power and mercy.
By Protestantism the Saints were bidden to depart from the life of Christendom. Their shrines were pillaged; their relics cast to the winds; their images forbidden in homes and public places; their names condemned to oblivion. Poor at once was the world of Protestantism in solaces and comforts of the supernatural life. To those who comprehend the teachings of the Catholic Church with regard to “The Communion of the Saints” and in mind and heart conform with it, there come sweetest joyousness and most precious inspiration.
We are made to live in society to be mutually helpful to one another in giving and in receiving. Solitariness is unbearable. It is written: “Woe to him that is alone; for when he falleth, he hath none to pick him up. “ In the natural order God created us one for the other; we are one to the other intermediaries of His gifts. Why were it different in the supernatural order? Why, there, where lie our dearest interests, where the best of our being finds its highest complement, should separateness be decreed, intercommunion of love and service forbidden?
Happily the truth remains: denials of men are powerless against the teachings of the Church of Christ. “The Communion of the Saints “remains. Death snatches from us our loved ones. Affrighted, we cry out: shall we not again know them, not again be known by them? Across the grave that hides their mortal remains, arises the voice of Christian faith: Death has not ravished them from you: only from bodily vision have they gone: their closeness, now the exclusive closeness of soul to soul, is intimate as never before. Through God s gracious love, souls on earth live amid souls in Heaven, amid souls in Purgatory; souls in Heaven help us by their prayers; souls in Purgatory are helped by ours. The gloom of the grave vanishes: “Death is swallowed up in victory: O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy Sting?”
The eyes of faith bear us through the portals of Paradise. There pass in glorious review the hosts of God s elect, men and women of every family of mankind, of every condition of human life, who, once, in all forms of circumstances, amid trials and temptations, held themselves pure and holy, and now, in reward of loyalty to the laws of the Sovereign Master, live in ever-ending bliss. What we are, they were: what they are, we are called to be, on the condition that to-day we be what yesterday they were. The Saints of Heaven are exemplars to be copied into our Lives; over and above this, they are helpers, ceaselessly invoking upon us divine blessings, ceaselessly offering to the Great Dispenser of grace their well-earned rewards in substitution for our coldness of heart and weakness of effort. This the joyousness of “The Communion of the Saints “this the stimulus from it so to live, so to battle and triumph, that we be to-day saints on earth, saints to-morrow in Heaven.
We are sons of our ideals. Tell me whom you admire, whom you love and speak of, and I will tell what you are. The nation portrays in statue and painting its great men, noted for prowess and unselfish civism: it seeks to create a posterity that will rival them in deeds of service. In like manner and for like reason the Church, intent on the sanctification of souls, on the upbuilding of God s Kingdom on earth, the mirror of God s Kingdom in Heaven, makes effort to enliven in the souls of its members the remembrance of its saints and heroes. Its loyalty to its saints and heroes proves it to earth and to Heaven: the doctrine of “The Communion of the Saints “responds to the deepest and truest instincts of human nature: it responds to the clearest teachings and traditions of divinely-given revelation.
As it is to-day in the Catholic Church with regard To “The Communion of the Saints” so it was through out all Christian ages. As it is to-day in Catholic temples, so it was in the Catacombs, the home of Christ s earliest martyrs and confessors. What the adornment of the rude tufa walls of the Catacombs? The Cross of Calvary, the Maid of Bethlehem and her divine infant, the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, the Apostles of the New. What the voice emerging from the brick or marble, closing the tombs of martyrs and confessors? The voice of prayer that the departed be in peace with God, that in Heaven they intercede for friends on earth. What see we in the Catholic temples of to-day? The Cross; statues and paintings of the Virgin Mother; statues and paintings of the Saints of one or of the other of the nineteen centuries of Christ s reign on earth. And what there hear we? First, chants of supreme adoration to Him, to whom alone supreme adoration is due, solemn intonations of sacrificial worship in honor of Him to whom alone sacrifice may be offered and, then, converse of love and reverence with the Saints of Heaven, humble supplication for solace to God s servants in Purgatory. Where in Christendom to-day would the martyrs and the confessors of the Catacombs be at home, were they now to revisit the earth? Assuredly, in the temples of the Catholic Church there and there only. The Catholic Church makes no alteration in its doctrines and practices no alteration in its doctrine and practices with regard to “The Communion of the Saints”
THE COMMUNION OF SAINTS
Rev. Charles F. McGinnis