Excerpt from the “Catholic Religion” a manual of instruction for members of the anglican communion by Vernon Staley- 1893 (Courtesy of google books on line):
vi. “The Communion of Saints.”
By the term “communion” in this article of the Creed, we are to understand “fellowship.” This fellowship of saints is grounded on the truth that all the saints,.living and departed, are united to Jesus Christ, and form His mystic Body. The saints are members one of another, because they are members of Christ’s Body, the Holy Catholic Church. “So we, being many, We one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”(Rom xii.5)
The term “saints,” or holy ones, is applied in the New Testament to all the baptised living upon earth, who have not forfeited baptismal grace. The baptised are saints in the sense that they have been sanctified by. baptism, and are called to lead a holy life. As fellow-members of the Body of Christ, they hold the same faith, receive the same sacraments, join in the same worship, and share in common its blessings and its hopes.
But in later use, and according to modern custom, the term “saints” is applied to the more distinguished members of the Church, and especially to such as have departed this life, and are now with Christ. The Church has thus specially honoured the Blessed Virgin, the Apostles, and the Martyrs, and other great leaders of the army of the faithful. These may be regarded now as among “the spirits of just men made perfect,”(Heb.xii.23) and certain of their number we keep in honour, and commemorate on “Saints’ Days.” Such are described in the collect for All Saints’*Day as the “blessed saints.” This same communion also embraces all the faithful departed who are now in Paradise, in the intermediate state. The article of the Creed teaches that we are in close relation to all these holy ones beyond the grave, that they remember us before God and pray for us.
The term “saints ” is also applied in the Old Testament to the holy angels,(Deut. xxxiii.2) the first family of God, who minister to all below who are in Christ. The Epistle to the Hebrews (xii.22) speaks of “an innumerable company of angels,” to whom the redeemed race of mankind “are come,” and who will hereafter be gathered into a closer union with us in Christ.
Thus the communion of saints embraces the whole family of God,—the glorified saints, the holy angels, the faithful departed, and the faithful still on earth.
That the saints who have gone before pray for us, has always been the belief of the Church. We believe that they join in prayer for us on earth with a power which was. not theirs whilst in the flesh,—the mother for her children, the priest for his flock, friend for friend. In what way, or to what extent, the saints are conscious of our needs, has not been revealed to us; yet we *may ask God to grant us a share in their intercessions.
The English Church in Article XXII. condemns “the Romish doctrine concerning invocation of saints,” that is to say, that system of prayer to the saints which led to their being regarded otherwise than as exalted suppliants. Before the Reformation serious abuses had arisen. It was supposed, for instance, that the saints had power with’ God because of their own merits, and that they were kinder and had greater sympathy for sinners than Christ our Saviour. Modern Roman books of devotion speak of the Blessed Virgin Mary especially, in a manner which we believe to be quite inconsistent with the honour due to our Lord.
Upon this subject we quote the words of Dr. Pusey,—” The exclusive address of unseen beings has an obvious tendency at once to fall into a sort of worship; it is too like the mode in which we address Almighty God to be any way safe; the exclusive request of their intercessions is likely at once to constitute them intercessors in a way different from God’s servants on earth, and (which is the great practical evil of these prayers in the Roman Church) to interfere with the office of the Great Intercessor;”(Letter to Bishop of Oxford, p. 198.) and again “For members of the English Church, who desire the prayers of the departed, it has to him ever seemed safest to express the desire for those prayers to God ‘of Whom and through Whom and to Whom are all things.’ (“Letter to the Bishop of London, p. 143, and note.)
It is quite right to pray for the departed, if we have a good hope that they died in God’s favour. And where no such hope exists, we may commend them to His mercy. If we remember that they are still in a place of waiting, it is natural to pray for them. The Jews regularly used such prayers in their public services, and our Lord, who attended those services, must have often joined in them. He nowhere rebuked the practice. In St. Paul’s words,—” the Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day,” (2 Tim. i. 18, compare with verse 16.)we have an example of prayer for the departed. The context seems to shew that Onesiphorus was dead when St. Paul wrote these words. The Church has always prayed for the dead. In the writings of St. Augustine we read that his mother Monica, at the close of her life “gave no injunctions concerning such things as these (her burial arrangements), but desired only that a memorial of her might be made at Thine Altar.” The allusion here is to prayers for the dead in union with the Eucharistic Sacrifice. St. Augustine adds,—” May she rest, then, in peace together with her husband. . . And inspire, O Lord my God . . . my brethren . . . that so many as shall read these pages, may at Thy Altar remember Thy handmaid Monica, with Patricius.” (Confessions ix.13) The early forms of Service for the Holy Communion are called the Primitive Liturgies. There is not one of these which does not contain prayers for the dead. The early Liturgies possess an authority second only to the Holy Scriptures. We append a prayer drawn up from expressions in the Primitive Liturgies, to shew the kind of petitions we may safely make to God for the faithful dead.
‘Remember, O Lord God, the souls of Thy servants who have departed this life in Thy faith and fear, whom we remember, or who are forgotten upon earth. Do Thou grant unto them, and unto all who rest in Christ, a place of refreshment, of light, and of peace, in Thy kingdom, in Thy paradise, in the bosom of Abraham, where sorrow pain and sighing are banished away, and where the light of Thy Countenance ever shineth.