The earthly Church – called the Church Militant, is connected with two other assemblies: the Church Triumphant, and the Church Suffering. We on earth are Militant because we struggle against the evils of the archons in the world. The Church Triumphant consists of the liberated spirits in the Fullness (Pleroma), those blessed souls traditionally referred to as saints. Finally, the Church Suffering is made up of those souls and spirits who are neither in earthly embodiment, nor in the freedom of the Fullness, but in the purgatorial immaterial realms. Joined together, these three assemblies make up what is known as the Communion of Saints.
Today being All Souls’ Day, we devote the holy day particularly to praying for the dead. Yesterday, of course, we honored all the saints, both known and unknown. It occurred to me that while we often talk about praying to the saints – which in practice is really praying with the saints – we never talk much about praying for the saints.
This may strike some as strange – perhaps even wrong: praying for the saints. Why would saints need our prayers? As I often say, prayer is not bound by space and time. God applies our prayers exactly when and where they are needed. And so if we remember this, praying for the saints seems just as appropriate as praying for the dead – especially when you consider that some of the dead we may have prayed for today could actually be unrecognized saints who are not publicly known or venerated by the Church Militant.
By praying for the saints, our prayers may be strengthening the martyr 500 years ago, as he’s marched to his death for his faith. They may be providing grace to the young 3rd century consecrated virgin, whose pagan father wished to marry off for political and/or financial reasons. They may be offering courage the saint who, centuries ago, struggled with his faith or experienced a “dark night of the soul”. We never know how our prayers are used, but as three parts of One Church, we should all do our best to pray for each other. This is why, in my tradition, we hold annual Requiem Masses for the Holy Cathar Martyrs, as well as for the Holy Templar Martyrs. We pray for them, not only in whatever state of existence they may be in now, but also for their final moments of earthly life.
Hallowmastide, my favorite time of year, is perhaps the best time to emphasize the reality of the Communion of Saints. We are all part of the same Church – interior, invisible, secret, and universal; one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. It is important to pray for the departed, no matter who they are; and it is particularly important that just as we ask the saints to pray for us, we also have the piety and love to pray for them.
Blessed All Souls’ Day everyone!