All Saints and All Souls are liturgical holidays that call us to remember those who have gone before and to give thanks. Along with confessing our belief in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, Christians confess that we believe in the communion of saints, a “Christian symbol that speaks of profound relationship,” in the words of Elizabeth Johnson (Friends of God and Prophets). This relationship is not enjoyed only by those “whose rest is won.” The communion of saints speaks of an ongoing concourse between those living in Christ this side of death and those treasured in memory and hope. One of the primary ways we enter into this remembrance is through participating at the Lord’s Table, which is an anticipatory celebration of the great messianic banquet where saints gather from east and west, north and south.
I hold a lovely memory from Douglas’ last day of life. During the morning hours he began to articulate that he sensed death was near. “I am not recoverable” was his own clinical assessment—ever the forthright physician. Swallowing had become difficult, and I administered his medication by crushing it and sliding it down his throat in ice cream. Early afternoon, he brightened a bit and, looking beyond me to an eternal horizon, said with a clear voice: “I think I’ll have a piece of meat.” Was he placing his order for a heavenly meal to which he was being beckoned? When he died that evening, with a little smile on his face, I could imagine that he had indeed arrived at the Lord’s Table.
The Epistle lesson for All Saints encourages us to know the hope of our calling, the riches of Christ’s “glorious inheritance among the saints…” (Ephesians 1:18). It is through communion with the Blessed Triune God and with one another that we are formed for eternal life. As we remember those who have gone before, we are encouraged to faithfulness in the present. May we sing with all those who make their slow pilgrimage on earth William W. How’s inspired words:
O blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine.
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia, Alleluia!
Molly T. Marshall
To learn more about the communio sanctorum at Central, visit www.cbts.edu