Daily Reading for November 3
The “communion of saints” is an important resource for the cultivation of Christian spirituality. A portion of the current consensus is based in a willingness to think of the “saints” in a fashion that includes and yet goes beyond the formal process of canonization. Lawrence Cunningham, for example, suggests that “the saint is a person whose life is so centered on a profound religious vision that it is radically different; that difference is so apparent to others for its quality and depth that the sympathetic observer can see the value of the religious vision that has grasped the saint.” Karl Rahner and William Thompson pointed in this same direction as they linked the classical saints and mystics to the spirituality of “Every Day Mystics.” Viewed in this fashion, Cunningham was correct to point out that consultation of the saints “serves both a paradigmatic and prophetic function” for Christian spirituality. It is paradigmatic because the saints offer us models for pursuing and practicing Christian spirituality that are road-tested and reliable; it is prophetic insofar as the luminous sanctity of the saints’ lives carries with it—either implicitly or explicitly—a judgment upon our own lives and values.
The role of the communion sanctorum in Christian spirituality is based in the fellowship with Christ and fellowship among Christians that is epitomized in the Eucharistic celebration of Christ’s body. It emphasizes the transcendent unity of Christians, “the saints” past and present, that shapes Christian spirituality through the quality of life engendered by Christian koinonia and that takes expression in congregational life, community life, and various forms of devotion. “Such devotions,” Edward Yarnold reminds us, “can express a joy and confidence in the way in which God works through human intermediaries; they depend upon the doctrine of the communion of saints, which asserts the interdependence of all Christians, living and dead.”
From the introduction to Invitation to Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Anthology, edited by John R. Tyson (Oxford University Press, 1999).