The Communion of Saints



The word ‘saint’ comes from the Latin word ‘sanctus’ which means ‘holy’ and so, when we talk about the saints, we usually mean those holy people who are now in Heaven, such as St Peter or St Catharine.

The word at one time, however, just meant faithful members of the Church who were trying to become holy, and that is the sense in which St Paul uses the word in the New Testament.  Thus he begins his letter to the Church people in the city of Ephesus with the words, “To the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Christ Jesus” (NRSV, Ephesians 1:1).

So when we say in the Creed that we believe in the Communion of Saints, we mean the fellowship of all Church people who love Jesus.

The Communion of Saints on earth

One of the things that draws Christians closer together in fellowship is prayer, as when we pray to Jesus for our friends and relations and when they pray for us.  Especially this is so with the Holy Communion.  When we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we know that at that time we have fellowship with, Christians in our own country and in other parts of the world who make their Communions.  We all receive the same Lord and so are linked together by him.

If you went abroad to a strange country where you did not know anybody, how pleased you would be to find some Christians there, and how gladly you would go to church with them.  Even if the only word you both knew was Amen, you would certainly be one of them as you knelt with them and worshipped Our Lord together.  It would help you realise far more than you can in England how close the fellowship of members of the Church is and should be.

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