The Comfort of the Communion of Saints: The Holy Christian Church
Beautiful Luther quote from his work from 1520 titled Fourteen Consolations:
Who could despair in his sins? Who would not rejoice in his sorrows? He no longer bears his sin and punishment–and if he does bear them he does not bear them alone–but is supported by so many holy children of God, yes, by Christ himself. So great a thing is the communion of saints in the church of Christ.
If a person does not believe that this is a fact and that it happens, he is an infidel and has denied Christ and the church. Even if it is not perceived, it is still true. But who could fail to perceive it? After all, why do you not despair and become impatient? Is it due to your strength? By no means. It is because of the communion of saints.
Otherwise, you could not even bear a venial sin,ï»¿ or endure what men say against you. So close to you are Christ and the church! It is this that we confess in the Creed: âI believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy, catholic church.â What else is it to believe in the holy church but to believe in the communion of saints? What is it that the saints have in common? Blessings, to be sure, and evils. All things belong to all, as symbolized in the bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar, where we are told by the Apostle that we are one body, one bread, one cup.ï»¿ Who can hurt one part of the body without hurting the whole body? What pain can be suffered by the little toe that is not felt by the whole body. We are one body. Whatever another suffers, I also suffer and endure. Whatever [Vol. 42, Page 163] good befalls him, befalls me. Thus Christ says that whatever is done unto one of the least of his brethren is done unto him [Matt. 25:40]. When a man receives only the smallest morsel of the bread in the sacrament, is he not said to partake of the bread? And if he despises one crumb of the bread, is he not said to have despised the bread?
Therefore, when we feel pain, when we suffer, when we die, let us turn to this, firmly believing and certain that it is not we alone, but Christ and the church who are in pain and are suffering and dying with us. Christ does not want us to be alone on the road of death, from which all men shrink. Indeed, we set out upon the road of suffering and death accompanied by the entire church. Actually, the church bears it more bravely than we do. Thus we can truthfully apply to ourselves the words Elisha spoke to his fearful servants, âFear not, for those who are with us are more numerous than those with them. And Elisha prayed and said, "Lord, open the eyes of the young man that he may see." And the Lord opened his eyes and he saw. "And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire around Elisha" [II Kings 6:16-17].
All that remains for us now is to pray that our eyes, that is, the eyes of our faith, may be opened that we may see the church around us. Then there will be nothing for us to fear, as is also said in Psalm 125 [:2], "As mountains are round about it, so the Lord is round about his people, from this time forth and forever." Amen.
Martin Luther, Fourteen Consolations, Luther’s Works, Vol. 42 : Devotional Writings I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works, 42:162 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999, c1969).