What is the Communion of Saints?

09.07.17 | by The Very Rev. Dr. Neal Michell

    "I believe in...the communion of saints" -Apostles Creed

    The earliest version of the Apostles Creed comes from a document dated between AD 710 to 750. (Sorry, these things don't usually come with a date stamp.) It was written in Latin: Credo in . . . communion sanctorum." The phrase is a bit ambiguous. It can mean "I believe in . . . the sharing of holy people." Or, it can mean "I believe in . . . the sharing of holy things." Or both. 

    This term "holy" has nothing to do with moral purity. If it means "holy people," it is not saying that these saints are morally superior to others-even though we should be morally faithful. The word holy, whether in Latin or Greek, means "set apart." 

    Our communion, fellowship with one another-whether visible or invisible- is in Jesus. We are identified as holy people not because we are better than others but because we are redeemed. We are people who are identified as followers of Jesus. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, says that "[t]he Church is the community of those who have been 'immersed' in Jesus' life. Overwhelmed by it."

    And, we are a people who handle "holy things," such as Bread and Wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. Jesus told us that whenever "we eat this bread and drink this cup, we show the Lord's death till he comes."

    So, when we gather in worship, we praise God with believers we cannot see; with "the whole company of heaven." When we participate in Holy Communion, we feast with past, present, and future followers of Jesus, those who have been immersed in his love. This faith community stretches beyond space and time. When we do this, we enter into God's CHAIROS time. CHRONOS time is measured by the passing of seconds, minutes, hours, and so on; CHAIROS time is beyond the ticking of a clock. When we receive the Bread and Wine, we are sharing in the fellowship of followers of Jesus throughout time. They are ever present with us. And that is a great comfort.