He who learns must suffer, and, even in our sleep, pain that we cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God. - Aeschylus

Monday, November 9, 2015

Love it to Death: The Communion of Saints

I'm no Saint.  And yet I recently celebrated the Feast of All Saints, because it is my sincere desire to become a Saint.  To be clear, I have no particular desire to be canonized; it is the genuine holiness for which I strive.  I seek to be a man after God's own heart, and on rare occasions, with the help of His abundant grace, it happens.

Becoming a Saint does not happen in a moment; cultivating holiness is a lifelong occupation which requires us to sacrifice all that prevents us from being holy in each moment.  It is a constant struggle against our overweening pride and our slavery to the ego which draws us ever more toward all the transient desires tempting us all the day long; our pride and our slavery to the ego are precisely what keep us from being able to receive the Bread from Heaven when we gratefully accept the inestimable gift of Holy Communion.

Though we do not become Saints in a moment, it is through the process of acting saintly in more and more of the moments of our daily lives that we can become a Saint; holiness is a state of profound love for all in which we can exist in moments, and hopefully over the course of our lives this profound love begins to suffuse most of the moments of our days.  And if we die in this love, then we will live in Love.  This is the Communion of the Saints, this Life of Love which we struggle to put on over our stubborn pride, and this life in Love is life in Christ to the fullest, life in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.

Thus the Communion of the Saints is also the Holy Communion which we gratefully receive when we are without the mortal sin which separates us from God so that we cannot live in Love, the reception of our Lord who is Love into our hearts which cannot hold Him unless He give us the grace.  The Communion of Saints who are in heaven is the Bread from Heaven, the Bread of Life spoken of by Christ in the Gospel of John, the Bread which is so wondrous that when we discern it, our hearts cannot help but proclaim, "ECCE PANIS ANGELORUM!"

When, after confessing our sins in the true repentance of love, we approach the priest to receive the Eucharist, thus accepting the gift of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, then we enjoy a foretaste of the Communion of Saints, of the divine life of love of which the Saints partake in Heaven.  In His immense generosity, He allows us to enjoy a foretaste of the adoption into the divine household, a invitation into the family of the Father.  This is a family related by blood, specifically the blood of the thrice-holy Lamb in which we are washed clean, made new by His bloody sacrifice on the cross.

The unbloody Sacrifice of the Mass is given to us as an ever-present institution of the momentous bloody death of the spotless Lamb.  Like the Lamb, we want to offer ourselves to God spotless and unblemished, holy as He calls us to be in the moment in which we embrace Him, holy because we want to give to God the embrace of the heart which is after His own, and we are willing to sacrifice our pride we so often value above everything for Him who sacrificed His only begotten Son so that we might have life abundantly.

And so we confess our sins, repent out of our love for Him, and obey His commands, turning toward Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  Confession and repentance are the ways in which we receive the grace to be saints for the moment so that we receive Holy Communion, that profound moment that we let the Son into our life as Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  Confession and repentance are the heartbeats of the heart which has begun the journey to the life of holiness, the heart which can begin to participate in the Communion of the Saints, a heart which can receive the same Bread of Heaven so many Saints received through the ages.

So let us open our hearts and have the heart of a Saint in the moment we receive Holy Communion through the repentance of love so that we can love to death all that would keep us from entering into full communion our Father in Heaven, with His Son as He appears to us still on the earth, and the Communion of the Saints.

Note: The above is a Byzantine icon of Christ giving Himself to us sinners who are gradually transformed into Saints by receiving Him more fully.

No comments:

Post a Comment