Sunday, July 15, 2012

Therefore with angels and archangels, and with all the company of heaven . . .

This article was written three years ago by Bishop Chandler Holder Jones, Rector of St Barnabas, Dunwoody, Georgia, USA. The original is HERE.

The honour and veneration of the Saints as our elder brothers and sisters in the communion which is the family of God and the temple of the Holy Ghost are a key and indispensable element in proper orthodox Christian worship . . . 

The liturgy is in fact a participation in the Communion of Saints, as the Book of Common Prayer so beautifully and explicitly declares: ‘therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious name...’ The Church is totus Christus, the whole Christ, both Head and Body, and in her the Saints in glory participate with us militant on earth in the one perfect and eternal Liturgy of the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. All the saints and angels gather round the heavenly throne and the heavenly altar and worship God and the Lamb - the mystery of the worship of heaven, the action of the eternal heavenly liturgy, is made present and activated on earth in the Eucharist. 

We do on earth in the Holy Communion what the saints and angels do forever in heaven. 

Thus the Fathers of the Church describe the Eucharist as ‘heaven on earth’ and the Church as an ‘earthly heaven.’ The veil between heaven and earth is pulled back in the celebration of the Eucharist and we are caused by grace, united in the risen and ascended Lord, to be joined at the altar with our own great-great grandfathers and great- great grandchildren in the mystical communion of Christ’s Body, the Church triumphant, expectant and militant. 

All Christians living and dead are presented to the Father anew through Christ the high priest in every Eucharist. Our Lord’s eternal priesthood prevails once more, under sensible signs on earth, for all who have ever lived, past, present and future. All generations of God’s people from the beginning of the human race to its consummation at the end of time are mystically and supernaturally present at the altar, united to the Lord Jesus Christ, who pleads and exhibits the one Sacrifice for our sake. 

Our honour of the Communion of Saints, our hymns, prayers and devotions in celebration of God’s Friends above, reminds us of our own eschatological destiny in Christ and the victory we already share with the Saints in the crucified and risen Jesus, the Lord of all creation. ‘Until his coming again:’ the Eucharist is essentially an eschatological event in which we pass through death and judgement and enter once again, in time and space but beyond them, into the glory of the Risen Christ - to live and reign with him and to worship the Holy Trinity in him, through him and by him . . . every Eucharist is a literal coming again, a true Advent of the Saviour to us here and now. The second coming occurs over and over again in the Mystery of the Altar. In the Eucharist we ascend with Christ, that where he is we might also ascend and reign with him in glory. In the holy Sacrament “our life is hid with Christ in God” and we are made continually to dwell in the heavens with him. We never pray alone; we are not saved alone, but only as members of Christ. 

. . . In essence, the Eucharist is the Life of the Holy Trinity, as we go to the Father, through this life and the life of the world to come who are, like us, made partakers of the divine nature. The Saints pray with us and for us in the liturgy of the Church. 

. . . The majority of the world’s Christians invoke and commemorate the Communion of Saints in public worship . . .  An authentic Church is one that reverences Christ’s beloved, the Saints, as exemplars of the Christian life and heavenly intercessors and relatives. Anglicanism has historically held the Saints in the highest esteem, and has offered her liturgy in honour of their holy memory, and that hallmark of our patristic Catholicism, a biblical, sombre, restrained and dignified treatment of the Saints, has been an irreplaceable treasure shared in common with the other Apostolic Churches.


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