All posts tagged: communion of saints

Jazz: A Foretaste of Eternal Life

Throughout Scripture, there are more than 1,000 references to all things musical—songs, singing, instruments, and the like. These passages identify music as a beautifully appropriate way to praise God not only here on earth, but also in the eternal joy of heaven. As a lifelong musician, I’ve always been especially comforted by the reassurance that, whatever else life in heaven is like, music will definitely be a part of it. More recently, as a composer, I’ve often found myself wondering what exactly this music will sound like. Some Scripture passages seem to imply a capella (unaccompanied vocal) music, for example, “I thank you, LORD, with all my heart; in the presence of the angels to you I sing” (Ps 138:1). On the other hand, Isaiah tells us that “we will sing to stringed instruments in the house of the LORD all the days of our life” (Is 38:20). That sounds appealing; who doesn’t love a good string quartet? The psalmist goes several instruments further in his final song of praise: Hallelujah! Praise God in his …

Belief in the Communion of Saints Isn’t Optional

The “communion of saints” is a definitive mark of the Christian imagination conformed to the mystery of salvation: the communion of holy persons invites and demands an act of faith for Christian belief to build toward completion. In fact, it is the exercise of fidelity to the promises of Christ in the face of death that gave this expression its primary meaning for Western Christianity. This meaning was carried into and is now borne by the Apostles’ Creed, “the most universally accepted creed in Western Christendom.”[1] Every saint has a history and so does the article of faith that attests to the communion in which they share. The lives of saints arise from the work of God in the world while the article symbolizing their communion arises from the Church’s reflection on the life of faith in the Spirit. In fact, it was the intensity of faith of particular Christians, in a particular era, in a particular region, that helped the article of communio sanctorum to gain recognition as intrinsic to the faith: The fourth …

Vision for Young Adults: A Summer Retreat for 20- and 30-Somethings

The goal of Notre Dame Vision for Young Adults (YA) was simple. Bring together a group of individuals for a week of prayer, reflection, and rest. The idea was to set a simple schedule where people gather together to pray Morning and Evening Prayer and attend daily Mass together, to listen to and reflect about professionals living out their faith, and to delight in the company of others and the quiet of a summer on campus at Notre Dame. If I am totally honest, my expectations were pretty modest. Perhaps the modesty of my expectations was due to my doubt about the saints. One of the many spiritual pitfalls is treating the communion of saints as (and only as) historical Christian giants who have made it possible for me to consider the different roads that lead to Christ. Ignatius taught me to consider the experience of God; Francis led me to constant material critique; Blaise to be careful when eating chicken wings; and Cecilia to make music part of my prayer. The litany of the …

Seeing the Unseeable

The Letter to the Hebrews is a masterful restatement of the story of Israel in light of Jesus Christ. In chapter one, the letter clearly states its premise: In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he spoke to us through a son, whom he made heir of all things and through whom he created the universe. (Heb 1:1–2) One must think about the Letter to the Hebrews as the slow building up of an argument about what has been revealed in Jesus Christ. For this reason, it is often difficult to understand snippets of the text without grasping what comes before and after. On the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, we hear about the faith of Abraham. At the beginning of chapter 11, faith is described as “the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1). The word “evidence” means more than what one would collect from a crime scene. It means seeing what is not …

Tales from the Crypt

I spent Easter in a cemetery. No, I wasn’t exactly visiting the graves of my blood relatives. Nor was I trying to get a part in an episode of CSI. I was at Mass—the Easter Vigil to be exact. Out in the far right corner of the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama is a town called Holy Trinity. There, a little Catholic community founded by the Trinitarian order has a parish church. The Trinitarians also have three cemeteries on their grounds—one for the sisters, one for the priests and brothers, and the one for the public. On Holy Saturday night, I found myself, along with 40 parishioners, there in the public cemetery, standing somewhere between the living and the dead. I’d like to tell you about some of the people buried there as well as how we celebrated the Resurrection of Jesus in their midst on that night. Here lies Leon Domingo—a 23-year-old African American from Jersey City, a former soldier. He rests here after being falsely accused of raping and murdering a White girl in …

The Easter Portal

At the parish Easter Vigil, on that night when earth is wedded to heaven, nineteen people were baptized. Their stories, their lives, their very persons are now fully knit into Christ’s own life. Christ, who rose from the dead so that all of us might become sons and daughters of the triune God. Christ, who even now calls all members of the Church, his Body, toward redemption. Christ, who added hundreds of thousands last night to the communion of saints. Christ, whose body is marked by wounds of love. Forever. Christ is risen. He is truly risen. Forever. The redemption of the world, the renewal of the peaceable kingdom, where praise rather than violence shall be the defining discourse of all humanity–it is here in figure. It is here in truth. A new crop of saints have joined us to sing our victory hymn. And now we long, we watch for the day, when all shall join around the altar of the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world. Who takes away our sins. Who takes away …