The Communion of Saints

Most of us are familiar with the Apostles Creed that is used during Eastertide, at Baptisms, and also Morning and Evening Prayer on Sundays. The longest clause is about our Lord from his conception to the Resurrection and the expected return at the end of time. By contrast, the in the third clause about the Holy Spirit and the Church is very brief: ‘I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting’. However, these statements are actually all one as they are a development about the activity of the Holy Spirit within the Church. As our Lord has taught us, the Holy Spirit is the one who abides with the People of God and leads into all truth about our Saviour. It is in the power of the Holy Spirit that we make effective today the words of Christ in Baptism, the Mass and the forgiveness of sins. However, the phrase about the Communion of Saints was not in the first edition of the Apostles Creed and it read, ‘I believe …of the Holy Ones’, which was actually a reference to the Bread and Wine of the Eucharist. It is mentioned because the Church throughout the world is made one by this feast of unity. The Church is not defined by its administrative structures – its office holders and synods – but by its worship of God, gathered by Christ and with the Holy Spirit. This is the concept that was developed into the Communion of Saints. For it is by the assembly around the altar that the community is created and made holy. This community is not just here and now but embraces all the faithful who have ever lived – and this community extends beyond the boundary of death – the very reason we commemorate them – ‘so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another’ (Romans 11. 36ff). So what about those we call the Holy Ones today? Well, they are still members of the same community we belong to, but their witness to us is that the promises and gifts of Christ are effective to change human beings into his Image and Likeness, ‘So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! (2 Corinthians 5:7), ‘And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 5.17). All of this indicates we are on a journey to the fullness of life, which we can see is true in the lives of all the Saints.