As Catholics, we believe in the “communion of saints,” as professed in the Apostles Creed.
…I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
The term “Communion of saints” means that all the faithful (those living, and those in heaven) are one body in which all members communicate with each other, pray and worship together, and are in communion with each other. Christianity has always held this belief, and it was not until 1500 – 2000 years after Christ, when Protestantism formed to protest against the Catholic Church, that the precious doctrine of the communion of saints was jettisoned by these protester groups.
Great Chasm? Not So Fast.
When I was a Protestant, I believed that a great chasm separated the dead from the living and prevented them from communing with each other. To justify this teaching, we Protestants cited Luke 16:22-31, the famous account of the rich man and the beggar.
“The time came when the beggar [Lazarus] died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side [To be with Abraham and others who died in God’s favor]. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He [the rich man] answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
“‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
“He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'” ~ Luke 16:22-31
Protestantism teaches that this great chasm prevents the dead from communicating with the living. But wait a second. The dead guy in question here (the rich man) is in hell, not heaven. I can accept this passage of scripture as justification for teaching that dead people in hell cannot communicate with their living relatives. But it says nothing about dead people who died in God’s favor not being able to communicate with the living. This alone raises reasonable doubt about the Protestant teaching against the communion of saints.
The Defense Rests
But when we consider a stunning passage of Scripture in one of the books that have been conveniently deleted from Protestant Bibles, this reasonable doubt becomes overwhelming evidence in favor of the defendant, the communion of saints. Furthermore, it allows us to acquit and vindicate Catholicism’s ancient teaching on the communion of saints, and turn the tables and prosecute Protestantism’s modern teaching against the communion of saints.
The book in which we find this evidence is the Book of 2 Maccabees, a book which was in the Septuagint, the Scriptures used by Jesus and the Apostles, and against which neither Jesus nor the Apostles spoke one disparaging word; a book that remains in Catholic Bibles to this day; a book that not even Martin Luther removed from Protestant Bibles, but only moved from its position in the Old Testament to a position between the Old and New Testaments: a book that only began being removed from Protestant Bibles in the 1800s— yes the 1800s! Here is that evidence, that passage of Scripture from the precious Word of God, the Book of 2 Maccabees.
The Communion Of Saints Is Biblical
To set the stage, Judas Maccabeus is leading his Jewish military force against a gentile invasion force led by Nicanor.
2 Maccabees 15:6-17
In his utter boastfulness and arrogance Nicanor had determined to erect a public victory monument over Judas and his companions. But Maccabeus remained confident, fully convinced that he would receive help from the Lord. He urged his men not to fear the attack of the Gentiles, but mindful of the help they had received in the past from Heaven, to expect now the victory that would be given them by the Almighty.
By encouraging them with words from the law and the prophets, and by reminding them of the battles they had already won, he filled them with fresh enthusiasm. Having stirred up their courage, he gave his orders and pointed out at the same time the perfidy of the Gentiles and their violation of oaths.
When he had armed each of them, not so much with the security of shield and spear as with the encouragement of noble words, he cheered them all by relating a dream, a kind of waking vision, worthy of belief [In this vision, Judas Maccabeus is visited by two people who died in God’s favor– Onias the High Priest, and Jeremiah the Prophet. The details of the vision follow.]. What he [Judas Maccabeus] saw was this: Onias, the [deceased] former high priest, a noble and good man, modest in bearing, gentle in manner, distinguished in speech, and trained from childhood in all that belongs to excellence, was praying with outstretched arms for the whole Jewish community [Here we see a dead person, one who died in God’s favor, praying for God’s people. This teaching has not changed in the Catholic Church to this day.].
Then in the same way another man appeared, distinguished by his white hair and dignity, and with an air of wondrous and majestic authority. Onias then said of him, “This is a man who loves his fellow Jews and fervently prays for the people and the holy city—the prophet of God, Jeremiah [the same Jeremiah for whom the Book of Jeremiah in the Bible is named].” Stretching out his right hand, Jeremiah presented a gold sword to Judas. As he gave it to him he said, “Accept this holy sword as a gift from God; with it you shall shatter your adversaries.”
Encouraged by Judas’ words, so noble and capable of instilling valor and stirring young hearts to courage, they determined not merely to march, but to charge gallantly and decide the issue by hand-to-hand combat with the utmost courage, since city, sanctuary and temple were in danger. ~ 2 Maccabees 15:6-17
The Faithful Departed
So in this passage of Scripture, we see not one but two dead followers of God (Onias and Jeremiah) communicating with a living follower of God (Judas Maccabeus). The difference between the dead Onias and Jeremiah in 2 Maccabees 15, and the dead rich man in Luke 16, is that Onias and Jeremiah died in favorable standing with God, whereas the rich man died and went to hell. Deceased followers of God can absolutely communicate with living followers of God here on earth. This is an ancient and constant teaching of the Catholic Church that exists to this day.
Subtraction, Not Addition
Protestantism accuses the Catholic Church of having added to Christianity over the centuries, but the truth is that Protestantism has subtracted from Christianity over the centuries.
I invite my dear Protestant brothers and sisters to investigate the early church, the church launched by Jesus and the apostles. You will find what I found, that the earliest church was Catholic, not Protestant. The Catholic Church is your home. As a once-prodigal son, I have returned home to the Catholic Church. I pray that you do the same.
The Bible is always proven true.