An extract from the Introduction to “For All the Saints” by Prof. Stephen Reynolds.
Whenever we say the Apostles’ Creed, we confess our belief in “the communion of saints.” This term is rich in meaning and kaleidoscopic in its references. It can mean “the holy people of God,” the community of all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus. It can refer to the activity which sustains the unity of God’s people, sharing in the body and blood of Christ. And it can refer to the activity which this book is designed to help — the commemoration of those extraordinary Christians whom we call “saints.”
The habit of remembering “the friends of God” has been one of the great delights of Christian people since the dawn of the Church. The reason for this is neither fancy theology nor sub-Christian superstition. It is simply that the history of God’s mighty acts of salvation is always a personal history. The Church believes that the divine purpose of justice, mercy, and love is revealed in the stories of particular persons. Indeed, it is through the stories of individual saints that the Almighty renews and strengthens the witness of the whole community of “the holy people of God.” Thus, the Calendar of Saints is meant to jog our memories, to remind us that today or tomorrow is the heavenly birthday of someone whose faith, holy life, and witness to Christ were so great in their own time that they continue to be a cause for celebration by us in our time…
Thus, the Anglican communion does not commend saints to our remembrance because of their present state or status beyond the grave. It is for the sake of their evident righteousness while they lived in our midst that we give thanks to God for them, call them “saints,” and pray for grace to follow their examples. By faith, however, we have the assurance that their spirits are in the hand of the living God, who is God of the living, not of the dead. For that reason they must continue to share our hope, with the same graciousness towards us in our concerns as we show towards them in our remembrance. Our memorials and commemorations are not only an exercise in Christian history; they are also acts of companionship with those extraordinary friends of God whose spirits rejoice while their bodies rest in hope (Ps 16.9). The communion of saints is also communion with the saints.
(Anglican Church of Canada. For all the Saints : prayers and readings for Saints’ days : a supplement to the Book of alternative services, revised, Anglican Book Centre, Toronto, 2007.)
Extract from For All The Saints, the bio and the collect,
and the NRSV readings for the saint’s day.