The Communion of Saints (in Latin, communio sanctorum) is the spiritual union of all Christians living and the dead, those on earth, in heaven and, in Catholic belief, in purgatory. They share a single "mystical body", with Christ as the head, in which each member contributes to the good of all and shares in the welfare of all.
The earliest known use of this term to refer to the belief in a mystical bond uniting both the living and the dead in a confirmed hope and love is by Saint Nicetas of Remesiana (ca. 335–414); the term has since then played a central role in formulations of the Christian creed.
The term is included in the Apostles' Creed, a major profession of the Christian faith whose current form was settled in the eighth century, but which originated from not long after the year 100, the basic statement of the Church's faith (William Barclay, The Plain Man Looks at the Apostles Creed, pages 10-12).
The words translated into English as "saints" can refer to Christians, who, whatever their personal sanctity as individuals, are called holy because they are consecrated to God and Christ. This usage of the word "saints" is found some fifty times in the New Testament.
The persons who are linked in this communion include those who have died and whom Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect."pictures as a cloud of witnesses encompassing Christians on earth. In the same chapter, says Christians on earth "have come to
In Catholic terminology, the Communion of Saints is thus said to comprise the Church Militant (those alive on earth), the Church Penitent (those undergoing purification in Purgatory in preparation for heaven), and the Church Triumphant (those already in heaven). The damned are not among the Communion of Saints. The Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox Church, Anglican Communion, and the Assyrian Church of the East point to this doctrine in support of their practice of asking the intercession of the saints in heaven, whose prayers (cf. Revelation 5:8) are seen as helping their fellow Christians on earth. These same churches refer to this doctrine in support of the practice of praying for the dead (as seen in ).
The word "sanctorum" in the phrase "communio sanctorum" can also be translated as referring not to holy persons, but also to holy things, namely the blessings that the holy persons share with each other, including their faith, the sacraments and the other spirituals graces and gifts they have as Christians.
- Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Communion of Saints
- Catholic Encyclopedia: The Communion of Saints
- The Communion of Saints - A Statement of Evangelicals and Catholics Together
- Catholic Apologetics: The Communion of Saints
- Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: Communion of Saints
- Church of Ireland (Anglican): The Communion of Saints
- Claude Beaufort Moss, D.D.: The Communion of Saints
- First Reformed Presbyterian Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Sermon Notes - Communion of Saints
- John Henry Newman: Parochial and Plain Sermons, Sermon 11. The Communion of Saints
- "The Communion of Saints". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/The_Communion_of_Saints.
ja:聖徒の交わり pt:Comunhão dos Santos sv:De heligas gemenskap