Communion of Saints (Part II)

Since the intercessory prayer of the saints in heaven is founded upon their contemplation of God’s face, we should talk a little about the idea of contemplation in the heavenly sense. This is a huge topic (which St. Thomas Aquinas has already covered very well), so it’s not necessary to hit every little point. But, a brief definition of contemplation would go a long way to understanding the great issue of saintly intercession.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this:

“Contemplative prayer is the prayer of the child of God, of the forgiven sinner who agrees to welcome the love by which he is loved and who wants to respond to it by loving even more. But he knows that the love he is returning is poured out by the Spirit in his heart, for everything is grace from God. Contemplative prayer is the poor and humble surrender to the loving will of the Father in ever deeper union with his beloved Son.” (CCC 2712)

And later…

“Contemplative prayer is a union with the prayer of Christ insofar as it makes us participate in his mystery. The mystery of Christ is celebrated by the Church in the Eucharist, and the Holy Spirit makes it come alive in contemplative prayer so that our charity will manifest it in our acts…Contemplative prayer is a communion of love bearing Life for the multitude.” (CCC 2718, 2719)

Heavenly contemplation – with these statements in mind – is nothing short of seeing God face-to-face, “in full light,” and participating in His Love in a manner par excellence. It is to concern oneself with the concerns of the Father, and to love Christ and His Mystical Body (i.e. the Church) with the utmost purity and affection through the Holy Spirit. The beatific vision is participation in the Life of the Trinity, and as such it is participation in the Love of the Trinity for man, who was created in the divine image.

It would be easy to say that the saints in heaven have no concern for their brothers and sisters on earth – the Church militant, still fighting the good fight, and even those who have forsaken God. Why would those viewing the depth of the Almighty care about the trifles of those suffering on earth? But, to see God “in full light” means to see, as was just mentioned, the reality of man’s Trinitarian nature. How could those souls absolutely immersed in God’s Goodness in heaven not be concerned with those on earth? God Himself, who is perfect beyond perfection, continually bears in mind earthly humanity. Would He not also invite His saints to participate in fallen man’s salvation by way of their loving prayers?

The value of the communion of saints in Catholic theology is indispensable. Even more so, the value of the saints in the life of the faithful is utterly without match. Our prayers to the triumphant in heaven are a form of our glorification of the Father, since their intercession for us will be more pure and simple than anything we could hope to accomplish. To participate in the fullness of the Church is something genuinely beautiful and cannot be overlooked as an integral element in the Father’s plan of Salvation through Christ Our Lord.