by Lawrence Fox
|The Communion of Saints in the Breaking of the Bread|
The “communion of saints” is also known as the “bond of peace.” Jesus said to his disciples, “My peace I give you...” (Jn. 14:27) The “bond of peace” that Jesus Christ desires is an objectively visible “communion of saints” extending to all humanity. Jesus prayed “Father may they all be one as You and I are one, so that the world may believe.” (Jn. 17:21) As such, the “communion of saints” living the “bond of peace” is meant to be an objective and universal visible proclamation of the Gospel to the World. As such, Paul warns the Church not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:32) by deliberately breaking the “bond of peace” through acts of immorality (1Cor. 6:9-11), divisions (1Cor. 11:19) and heresies (Gal. 5:19). To preserve this communion, sometimes a person is ex-communicated (removed from communion) as a form of medicine for the part and the whole. This ex-communication was identified as “turning the person’s body over to Satan for the preservation of his soul.”(1 Cor. 5:5, 1Tim. 1:19-20) Thus it was in the primitive Church that - when one was excommunicated - the devil physically attacked him.
The Communion of Saints Living and Gone Before Us Marked with the Sign of Faith
The Gospel writers capture the story of the Transfiguration in which Peter, James, and John are with Jesus on the mountain and they are all suddenly enveloped by a cloud and within the cloud they witness Jesus speaking with Moses and Elijah and they hear God’s voice. (Matt 17. 1-6, Mark 9:1-9, Luke 9:28-33)
John the Evangelist writes that he was on the
Island of Patmos because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus. While there he relates that “on the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit.” (Rev. 1:10) The expression “on the Lord’s Day” means the 8th Day or Sunday. The expression “in the Spirit” is fundamentally the same “in the Spirit” which John experienced with Peter and James on the Mount of Transfiguration. It should be noted that Luke prefaces the Transfiguration with the words “about eight days” subtly implying the worship of God on the 8th Day (the Lord’s Day) is related to the events on the Mount of Transfiguration when the apostles were “in the Spirit.” The 8th day within apostolic Christianity also denoted participating in the Lord’s Supper on Sunday (Eucharistic Celebration).
John then “in the spirit” received a glimpse of eternal worship, the divinity of Jesus, and the Old Testament Prophets speaking with Jesus. John’s experience “in the Spirit” on the Island of Patmos carries with it the same distinctions. The one difference and
applicable to this topic is the fact that the angels and the saints in heaven speak with John and he speaks back to them. In other words, John is not simply a passive observer as on the Mount of Transfiguration, he is now an active participant in the whole dynamic meaning of the “communion of saints.”
John writes that he weeps and weeps because no one was found worthy to open the scrolls. His experience is real and not imagined. Then one of the elders (presbyters) – which John sees and speaks about earlier - says to him, “Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has triumphed, He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Rev. 5:5) John is consoled by the words of the presbyter who is participating in Divine Worship of God as noted in the subsequent verses of the same chapter. John’s experience of consolation is not different than the Catholic experience of saints in heaven sharing with the saints on earth their peace with Christ in heaven. It is the same Spirit, the same Lord, the same God and Father working through the whole mystical body of Christ. It is not God who separates His family; only the traditions of reforming men.
This is not the only time that John while in the Spirit enters into a conversation with an elder in heaven. John sees a multitude of people of every nation, people, and language standing before the throne and in front of the lamb all wearing white robes. One of the elders asks John, “these in white robes – who are they and where did they come from?” John responds, “Sir you know.” The elder then provides the answer. It is important to notice that John – who identifies himself as an elder in his Epistles (2Jn 1:1) – is communicating with angels and elders in heaven while in the Spirit.
Communion with the Martyrs in the Early ChurchJohn writes that he saw under the altar of the lamb, the souls of those beheaded because of their witness for Jesus Christ. This is a very graphic image of the blood of the lamb pouring off the altar and then under the altar and those beheaded are the fruit of the suffering of Jesus Christ. Jesus’ Blood is the source of their witness. Where do these saints participate in the blood of Jesus? Paul writes, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a communion in the blood of Christ?"
The apostolic Churches in the earliest records would reserve the relics of those martyred for the faith in a location where they celebrated the Lord’s Supper; sometimes literally under a fabricated table upon which they celebrated the Lord’s Supper. By doing so, the apostolic Churches in the earliest records expressed in worship the events of Revelation 6:9.
Ignatius, (107-10 AD) Martyr and Bishop of Antioch, Syria, wrote to the church in Rome, “Grant me no more than to be a sacrifice for God while there is an altar at hand. Then you can form yourselves into a choir and sing praises to the Father in Jesus Christ, that God gave the bishop of Syria the privilege of reaching the sun's setting (death) when he summoned him from its rising (birth).” The praise of God in His saints and martyrs was evidently part of apostolic worship. Ignatius wrote to the Church at Rome telling them that he would hope that the stomachs of the beast in the arena would
|The Martyrdom of St. Ignatius of Antioch|
Ignatius describes his impending death at the hands of the Romans as a participation in the Lord’s Supper by using the language of “God's wheat” and being ground up to make a “pure loaf for Christ.” The Lord’s Supper was to the apostolic Church not a symbol but something literal and substantial as noted earlier within the writings of Paul, “Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a communion (participation) in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a communion (participation) in the body of Christ? Since there is one loaf, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf.” (1 Cor. 10:15) Ignatius was so united within the communion of saints that he saw his death as a literal giving back to God, the Body of Christ which he received as a disciple and celebrated every Lord’s Day as a Catholic Bishop.
In 156 AD, Polycarp the Catholic Bishop of Smyrna – a disciple of John the Evangelist -- was put to death by the Roman authorities for refusing to deny Jesus Christ as “Lord and God.” Within the recorded martyrdom of Polycarp the Catholic Bishop of Smyrna, there exists the most vivid account of the apostolic Churches reserving the relics of those martyred for the faith in a location over which they celebrated the Lord’s Supper:
“So we later took up his bones (Polycarp's), more
|Arm of St. Polycarp|
Did you enjoy this piece. Lawrence Fox has also written: Just Discovered! The Gospel of Symbols