What is the Communion of Saints, and Mary's place therein?
The expression "Communion of Saints" is part of the Apostle's
Creed and constitutes an interpretation of the meaning "Holy
Catholic Church": the Church is the Communion of Saints.
- Since all faithful form one body, the good of each (and so the
lack of good) is communicated to all others.
- We believe thus that there is communion of good in the Church:
head and body; church of this time, church of eternity.
- The source of all good is Christ, the head of the Communion of
Saints. The riches of Christ are communicated to all members through
the Spirit of Christ which governs (should govern if only we let
him!) the Church.
- How does this occur? "Sancta sanctis"! Meaning "in holy things"
(sancta: Sacraments Sacramentals, Word of God, works of charity,
etc.), and "among holy people" (sancti: faithful). Saints, as we
commonly understand this term (Mary and the Saints) are particularly
sensitive conductors of holy gifts both in the act of receiving and
in the act of sharing with other members of the communion. Saints
thus have a certain regulatory and compensatory function for the
whole body: they ensure the contact and open access to the source,
always understood as greater sensitivity and receptiveness, as well
as assuring compensatory distribution of spiritual goods (the saint
promotes sanctity of the Church-Body).
- In more existential terms Saints are special helpers with and
representatives of the spiritual life which is expressed in the
theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. Saints point out
the radical importance of faith (decision for God thanks to His
grace), the necessity of hope (the perseverance and fidelity in
God's way thanks to his grace) and the ultimate triumph of charity
(understood as progressive and ultimate union with God and fellow
human beings thanks to God's grace). Saints are high visibility
agents of the communion of faith, the communion of sacraments, the
communion of charisms and the communion in charity. Faith, hope and
charity are essential elements of creative spirituality; they stand
for our radical dependence on God. Mary and the Saints are champions
of faith, hope and charity and so in no way substituting for God.
- Intercession needs to be read in this context. It is an expression
of communion beyond space and time. Enjoying a more intimate presence
and immediate knowledge of divine reality, the saints receive God's
gifts more plentifully for themselves and for others since everything
in Christianity is for sharing. It does not happen against the will
of God. The very idea of incarnation and redemption is based on
sharing: the Trinity shares Christ with us; Christ is sharing the
Father with us; the Spirit as expression of love between Father and
Son and perfector of Christ's saving (sharing) mission. Practicing
intercession we are practicing Christ's very attitude of sharing as
people who need His grace, and we fulfill His will to make the Church
a place of sharing. We also know that whatever the result of our
petition it will always have its origin in the one who is the
fountain and head of all grace.
- There are (Catholic and Protestant) misconceptions about
intercession, among them the (too) close connection between
intercession and miracle. The Saint is not in the first place a
miracle (= money) worker but a sharer in spiritual goods. He/she is
not in the first place a specialist for fertility problems but one
who works at augmenting the level of faith, hope and charity. Our
requests for special personal favors should be expressed within the
broader context of greater intimacy with God, perseverance in His way
and unity among believers.
- Mary's role in this context is multifaceted but it may be subsumed
under the title: mother of the Church. Mary was wholly united with
her Son during His and her lifetime; she is so also in her assumption
as singular participation in her son's Resurrection and anticipation
of the resurrection of other Christians. Thus she is our mother in
the order of grace. Her cooperation by obedience, faith, hope and
charity in the Savior's work continues. Her primary work as mother of
the Church is the restoration of supernatural life to souls, always
as the Spirit's temple, masterpiece and faithful "instrument." The
Blessed Virgin's salutary influence on us "flows forth from the
superabundance of the merits of Christ, rests on His mediation,
depends entirely on it, and draws all its power from it" (LG 60).
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