Serenity In The Communion Of Saints

Ah, my dear friends and fellow saints, I am, yet again, behind the seasonal power curve. However, I have had the communion of saints on my mind for days as I always do at this time of year. I am not sure of the reason, but the communion of saints is one of my favorite theological concepts. It may be due to a longing to be part of something larger than myself; it may be longing for those I love who have passed from this life; it may be a backward longing for what is to come on Earth after I am gone. It may be a manifestation of sensucht, the inexpressible longing examined by C. S. Lewis.

On page 862 of the Book of Common Prayer we are given a definition of the communion of saints:

Q. What is the communion of saints?

A. The communion of saints is the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.

Interesting...those we love and those we hurt!

I have a vision of the communion of saints. I sit in my little stone church with fellow church members and imagine saints like Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary, Francis & Clare, and John the Baptist present in a translucent embracing mist along with my father, uncle, grandparents I knew, grandparents and great-grandparents I did not know. Similarly I envision the presence of Shelly Ross, Sarah Glenn Pitts and the Jeter Sisters (local parish saints) . I also imagine the translucent presence of people who have not yet been born but will one day take my place on the heart pine bench I now occupy and stroke the old wood and treasure the hand carved cross on the base of the bench while they feel my embrace. No one left out; no one on the outside looking in; all reconciled; the closest thing my feeble humanity can imagine to all longing fulfilled, all tears wiped from our eyes and heaven on earth. Oh how pleasant it is to imagine the gathering of those I love!

But what about those I hurt? And why not those who hurt me?

Is it possible that those I hurt are present in the communion to give me another chance to make right errors in things I have done and left undone - an opportunity for honor that I might know perfect peace and joy? Is it possible that we have individual, or relative communions and that those who hurt me without reconciliation are not part of my communion? After all the communion represents union through love, and love and pain cannot co-exist. Is that reasonable? I don't know, but I can certainly imagine how this gathering would be soiled by the dishonorable presence of someone who visited evil upon me without remorse.

The presence of those I hurt and the absence of those who hurt me in the communion remind me of the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.

Perhaps the communion of saints is an opportunity to experience Wisdom, to right wrongs and forget that which we cannot change, and know serenity. I will have to ponder this a bit before I will comprehend the inclusion of those I hurt and the absence of those who hurt me. In the meantime I ask for your thoughts - the thoughts of my fellows in the communion. What do you make of the composition of the communion?

Image "Sanctus Circle" and words by Jan Neal. ©2007, All Rights Reserved.

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