Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 1, 2012: Homily: The Solemnity of All Saints

the charity of Christ urgeth us on

Fr. Ronald Knox once said:

"It ‘s a very odd thing, but if you had asked St. Paul what he meant by "the Communion of Saints ", I think he would have said, without much hesitation, "I mean that when one set of Christians is hard up another set of Christians, in a different part of the world, sends round the hat and takes up a collection for them".

That’s about right.   St. Paul calls everybody in the Church ‘saints’ because he is kindly thinking about not just what they are but what they can become. His epistles often start like this:

            To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi

            To the saints who are in Ephesus

            To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae

And no more did St. Paul convert some Gentiles, make them saints, than he would hit them up  for a contribution to the poor Jewish Christians back in Jerusalem.

The Creed which we say at Mass, the Nicene Creed, is originally a Greek composition with all the precision that language affords. But the Creed we say when we baptize folks at least in the Western Church, the Apostles Creed, is a Latin original. And the phrase “Communion of Saints” communio sanctorum has some ambiguity about it: it could as easily mean ‘communion of holy things’ as ‘communion of holy men”.  Some people in fact think that is exactly what it means.  But probably it means both saints and holy things.

In the Eastern Church when the priest invites the people to receive communion he says “Holy Things for the Holy”. A Communion of Saints is simply a case of holy people sharing holy things.

So when we profess our belief in “the communion of the saints” we are among other things affirming that all we in Christ are bound together by love. We are obligated to one another by the rule of the charity of Christ. “the charity of Christ urgeth us on” St. Paul says (2 Corinthians 5:14).

But what about the “real” Saints, we might ask, meaning the dead ones. The notion that death lets Christians off the hook from love of neighbor is certainly “a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warrant of Scripture but rather repugnant to the Word of God.”

the charity of Christ urgeth us on

A really strange state of affairs would be that Jesus’ summary of the law in the twin commandments to love God and neighbor was suspended in heaven.  Or that according to St. John’s view of things  “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” heaven should be populated by liars.

So it has ever been the mind of Church that we ask the prayers of the saints and pray for the dead of their charity and ours.

the charity of Christ urgeth us on

As the 1979 Prayer Book would have us pray in the Sacrament of Holy Marriage

Grant that the bonds of our common humanity, by which all
your children are united one to another, and the living to the
dead, may be so transformed by your grace, that your will may
be done on earth as it is in heaven; where, O Father, with your
Son, and the Holy Spirit, you live and reign in perfect unity,
now and for ever. Amen.

We are married to Christ. There is no sell-by date on the mutual bonds of affection. Love is stronger than death and remains so world without end.

the charity of Christ urgeth us on


Matthew M said...

Very good. I like this.

Note: I may be the only conservative/traditional person who actually like most aspects of the 1979 BCP (Rite One).

Feed Room Five said...

The 1979 BCP like all the editions of the PB is a mixed bag. It all depends on what you do with it. We use the Missal for the so called minor propers but follow the 1979 Lectionary for the readings and the Novus Ordo Lectionary for daily Mass. As you know I do not think that two vernaculars is a good idea. I also prefer the 1662/1928 Collects; they are for the most part the ancient collects of the Western Rite. Some of 1979 collects are silly and embarrassing to pray. It is certainly possible to use the 1979 Book well but it is rare in my experience.

Matthew M said...

Too true plus I prefer a yearly cycle not the three year cycle.