I was teaching Youngest Daughter the Apostles' Creed a couple of weeks ago. No, not making her memorize it (though she probably could) but just going through it. I always stick a bit at "he descended into hell," because frankly, I don't know what it means. Wish I had ol' Peter here (who is to blame for the phrase) to tell me what it was all about. But by the time I got to "I believe in the communion of saints," I had picked up speed.
And here is approximately what I told her: When Christian people die and go to heaven, we can't see them anymore, and they can't talk to us. But they are still worshipping Jesus Christ. In fact, they are worshipping Him better when they see Him face to face in heaven than they were able to do here on earth. And we are worshipping Jesus Christ, too. So even though we can't be with one another anymore like we are here on earth, we are connected by the fact that we are all followers of Christ, loving Christ, and with Jesus Christ loving and knowing about all of us, whether we are here on earth or in heaven. That is the Church--the Church Militant here on earth and the Church Triumphant in heaven. I reminded her of the part in the liturgy where it says, "And we also bless thy holy name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear." And finally, I reminded her of that great verse of the hymn "For All the Saints":
O blest communion, fellowship divine.
We feebly struggle; they in glory shine.
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
I should add, what might (or might not) seem at first blush irrelevant, that my husband has a wonderful annotated bibliography of apologetics works from centuries ago. It's located here. He tells me that he often thinks of those old divines fighting the good fight in their own time when we come to that part on Sundays that says, "And we also bless Thy holy name for all Thy servants departed this life in Thy faith and fear." And I should add that it goes on, "And give us grace so to follow their good example."
Cranmer's collect for All Saints captures perfectly what I regard as a sort of essence of the Anglican via media. It emphasizes the example of the saints and our union with them as servants of the Lord. I cannot forbear noting that neither the collect nor the preface contains any reference to invoking the prayers of nor venerating the saints nor to anything at all distinctively "high church." They are the kinds of bits of liturgy that I would like to offer to evangelicals as an example of what the Prayer Book contains that might enrich their own worship, if only their private worship.
The collect for All Saints:
O Almighty God, who has knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou has prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The proper preface, with the Sanctus:
Who, in the multitude of thy Saints, hast compassed us about with so great a cloud of witnesses, that we, rejoicing in their fellowship, may run with patience the race that is set before us, and, together with them, may receive the crown of glory that fadeth not away.
Therefore with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify thy glorious Name; evermore praising thee, and saying,
HOLY, HOLY, HOLY, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory: Glory be to thee, O Lord Most High.