Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints

Having sung through "The Church's One Foundation", I was minded to look to Thomas Ken's devotional expansion and meditation upon the Apostles' Creed, seeing what insights he had into belief in "The Holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Saints".  

Indeed, what that saintly Anglican wrote is quite acceptable and praiseworthy insofar as it goes; a Catholic would wish only to name his own diocese or perhaps rite as the "particular church" to which he belongs; by church "of England" a Catholic would intend to name, not "Rowan's C. of E. so frayed / That withers like a flower decayed", but the local church in communion with Christ's Vicar.  

And that, of course, is the chief ecclesiological omission – reference, not just to pastors having the keys of governance, but to Peter's successor, the chief shepherd of Our Lord's earthly flock.  As far as Ken goes in his mention of saints, he is correct, but we would want to specify that we not only praise them and study their good examples, who pray for us, but add that we indeed rightly pray them to intercede for us.  We would also wish to pray for our dear dead.

Thus far myself; now, the pious words of Thomas Ken, in meditation upon the 9th article of the Apostles' Creed:

The Holy Catholic Church.

I believe, O blessed and adorable Mediator, that the church is a society of persons, founded by thy love to sinners, (Matt. xvi. 18; Eph. v. 25.) united into one body, of which thou art the head, (Col. i. 18.) initiated by baptism, (Matt, xxviii. 19.) nourished by the eucharist, (Matt. xxvi. 26.) governed by pastors commissioned by thee, and endowed with the power of the keys, (Matt, xviii. 18; John xx. 22, 23.) professing the doctrine taught by thee, (Acts ii. 41, 42.) and delivered to the saints, (Jude iii.) and devoted to praise and to love thee.
I believe, O holy Jesus, that thy church is holy like thee, its author; holy by the original design of its institution, (2 Tim. i. 9.) holy by baptismal dedication, holy in all its administrations which tend to produce holiness; (2 Tim. ii. 19.) and though there will be always a mixture of good and bad in it in this world, (Matt. xiii. 24.) yet it has always many real saints in it; and therefore all love, all glory be to thee.
I believe, Lord, this church to be catholic, or universal, made up of the collection of all particular churches; I believe it to be catholic in respect of time, comprehending all ages to the world’s end, to which it is to endure; (Matt. xvi. 18; xxviii. 20.) catholic in respect of all places, out of which believers are to be gathered; (Matt, xxviii. 19.) catholic in respect of all saving faith, of which this creed contains the substance, which shall in it always be taught; (John xvi. 13.) catholic in respect of all graces, which shall in it be practised; and catholic in respect of that catholic war it is to wage against all its ghostly enemies, for which it is called militant: O preserve me always a true member of thy catholic church, that I may always inseparably adhere to thee, that I may always devoutly praise and love thee.
Glory be to thee, O Lord my God, who hast made me a member of the particular church of England [sic], whose faith, and government, and worship are holy, and catholic, and apostolic, and free from the extremes of irreverence or superstition, and which I firmly believe to be a sound part of thy church universal, and which teaches me charity to those who dissent from me; and therefore all love, all glory be to thee.
O my God, give me grace to continue stedfast in her bosom, to improve all those helps to true piety, all those means of grace, all those incentives of thy love, thou hast mercifully indulged me in her communion, that I may with primitive affections and fervour praise and love thee.

The Communion of Saints.

I believe, O King of Saints, that among the saints on earth, whether real, or in outward profession only, there ought to be a mutual catholic participation of all good things, (1 John i. 7.) which is the immediate effect of catholic love. Thou, O God of Love, restore it to thy church.
I believe, O thou God of Love, that all the saints on earth by profession ought to communicate one with another in evangelical worship, and the same holy sacraments in the same divine and apostolical faith, (Acts ii. 42, 46.) in all offices of corporal (Gal. vi. 10.) and spiritual charity, (Romans xii. 9, &c. 1 Thess. v. 14; Heb. x. 25.) in reciprocal delight in each other’s salvation, and in tender sympathy as members of one and the same body, (1 Cor. xii. 13, 26.) O God of Peace, restore in thy good time this catholic communion, that with one heart and one mouth we may all praise and love thee.
O my God, amidst the deplorable divisions of thy church, O let me never widen its breaches, but give me catholic charity to all that are baptized in thy name, and catholic communion with all Christians in desire. O deliver me from the sins and errors, from the schisms and heresies of the age. O give me grace to pray daily for the peace of thy church, (Psalm cxxii. 6.) and earnestly to seek it, and to excite all I can to praise and to love thee.
I believe, O most holy Jesus, that thy saints here below have communion with thy saints above, (Heb. xii. 22.) that they pray for us in heaven, while we celebrate their memories, congratulate their bliss, give thee thanks for their labours of love, and imitate their example; for which all love, all glory be to thee.
I believe, O gracious Redeemer, that thy saints here on earth have communion with the holy angels above; that they are ministering spirits (Heb. i. 14.) sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation, and watch over us, (Psalm xxxiv. 7.) and we give thanks to thee for their protection, and emulate their incessant praises and ready obedience; for which all love, all glory be to thee.
I believe, O my Lord and my God, that the saints in this life have communion with the three persons of the most adorable Trinity, (1 John i. 3; Phil. ii. 1.) in the same most benign influences of love, in which all three conspire; for which all love, all glory be to thee, O Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, world without end.
Glory be to thee, O goodness infinitely diffusive, for all the graces and blessings in which the saints communicate, for breathing thy love into thy mystical body, as the very soul that informs it, that all that believe in thee may love one another, and all join in loving thee.

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