O Fellowship Divine


JMJ

The Readings for  in the 10th Week of Ordinary Time (B2)

Beati sunt qui te viderunt, 
et in amicitia tua decorati sunt.
Elias quidem in turbine tectus est
Blessed is he who shall have seen you 
And who falls asleep in your friendship.
O Elijah, enveloped in the whirlwind!

I’ve been feeling out this huge transition since becoming Catholic. Both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church have devotions to saints, yes. But something feels different now, in the West. This is not a case of one does it right and the other wrong: but rather a difference in harmony on a common melody. This could also be my own experience in the East. I don’t pretend to know it all, and staying in largely convert communities can affect one’s journey. That said, allowing for difference of experience, it seems as if in the West there is more of a personal flavor to the cult of the saints. By this I mean only that one seems to have the personal experience of a friendship of certain saints and to relish it more than in the East.


Across the board, East and West, one can ask a saint to pray for an intention just as assuredly as one can ask one’s spouse or folks on Twitter. But there is in the Roman Church a sense of “St So and So is my friend” in a way that I did not see in Orthodoxy. St So and So may also not be always around. Relationships with Saints seem to come and go. People have strong devotions for periods of time. And then they move on. Other devotions seem to last a good while. It’s like the Saints are here to teach us something, as would a Godparent. One has a Patron of course, but something may happen to indicate things have evolved. One may learn to pray from one saint’s writings, or to get through a tough patch by asking another saint for help. One may always find one saint coming to mind as the work day gets difficult, or as troubles heat up in a marriage. When these pass, another saint steps up.

The LXX text about the Friendship with Elijah actually uses the Greek “Agape” rather than “Phila”. It uses a form of the verb to love that can be read either as “I love you, Elijah” or “Elijah, you love me”. It’s kind of neat that way. So the text says something more like “Blessed are they who share with you Agape.” And that’s important. The Saints are present to us because they are so advanced in their journey to Theosis, that God’s love (agape) can allow them to be here with us. They are not omniscient or omnipresent. Thus, they are not always everywhere, but in God’s timeless Agape it can seems like that to those of use trapped here in the realm of Space-Time. When I reach out to Blessed Stanley Rother, it’s not because he’s a magical unicorn that is always around, but rather because in God’s love for me, he allows my relationship with Fr Rother to grow and continue in eternity.

This is the relationship we share in Christ with all who have gone before us – not just those official Saints, but even the Holy Souls in Purgatory who have died in Christ. The hymns “For all the Saints” and “The Church’s One Foundation” make it poetically clear: the Church Militant enjoys full communion with her head on the Trinity’s throne, and through him with the whole companies of the Church Expectant and the Church Triumphant. When we kneel before the elevated Holy Mysteries on the Altar, or in the monstrance, we are in the presence of all who do, will, or have enjoyed that Divine Presence on earth and continue to enjoy Him in His fullness  in Heaven.

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Author: Huw Richardson

A Dominican Tertiary living in San Francisco, CA. He has worked in tech (mostly) since 1999 and enjoys cooking, keto, cats, long urban hikes, and SF Beer Week.