A Homily by Dom Benedict Maria, OSB
O sing unto the Lord a new song: let the Church of the Saints praise him. (Ps. 149)
Today, as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Solemnity of All Saints, we find ourselves the midst of the Great Church, the Ekklesia, the Ones called out of every people and nation to be his Holy Ones, the ones closest to his most sacred Heart.
Today we are truly in the midst of the Ecclesia Sanctorum, the Church of the Saints. We behold the Saints in the Church, not of the Old Law and the Old Testament, which was merely the shadow, an obscure, opaque reflection of the new.
No, we are in the choir of those who sing a New Song, a New Law, a New Covenant. We have put off the old, the old man with the old law which was the consequence of our old ways.
What is this New Song? It is the canticle of a new kind of humanity, mankind created anew in the image and likeness of God: mankind elevated, deified, transfigured, transformed, made to partake of the Divine Nature: in a word, Saints.
Those who sing the New Song, the Saints, the Holy Ones of God, are those who chant the mystic canticles of the angelic choirs, those heavenly “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19) according to the language and in the melody which only the Saints can sing.
Only those who have “put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9) can sing the New Song: those who are Saints, and those who, in this vale of tears, partake of the Mysteries of the New Covenant, and are thus on the way to becoming Saints.
“Purge out the old leaven,” says the Apostle, “that you may be a new lump of dough” (I Cor. 5:7). “Put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:24). “As Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). “If then any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away, behold all things are made new” (II Cor. 5:17).
“Remember not ye the former things,” sings the Lord Jesus through the Prophet Isaiah, “neither consider the things of old: Behold, I will do a new thing; and now they shall spring forth, verily you shall know them.” (Isa. 43:19)
The old is all that is temporal and earthly, fleshly, reflective of sin and death. Those who love the things of earth sing the old song. “Now we are loosed from the law of death, wherein we were detained; so that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Rom. 7:6) For in Christ Jesus nothing earthly or fleshly counts for anything, “but a new creature.” (Gal. 6:15)
“His praise”, the Psalmist sings, “is in the Church of the Saints.” What is the Church of the Saints? What can it be, other than the holy Catholic Church, the Communion of Holy Men and Holy Things, the Virgin Mother of all the Saints?
The Catholic Church is the Spiritual Israel, which praises “him that made him”, both now and throughout all ages, world without end. The Church is the Church of the Gods, that is, those who are Princes with God, those who have become Gods, not in nature but by grace. They are the “children of Sion", the Princes of their God and King, in whom alone they have their unending joy.
These Princes, these gods by grace, these Saints and Holy Ones, sing not only the New Song, but they praise their God in choro, "in the dance"; truly they have joined that divine dance, which the holy and undivided Trinity — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — the perfectly harmonious movement which have danced from all eternity.
“I pray,” sings the Saviour about this dance, “that they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us … and the glory which thou hast given me, I have given to them; that they may be one, as we also are one: I in them, and thou in me; that they may be made perfect in one.” (John 17:21-24)
The Saints, sings the Psalmist, “rejoice in their beds”: that is, the sleep the sleep of death, the slumber of the grave, in a place of refreshment, light, and peace, in full confidence and assurance, hope and faith, of the Resurrection of the flesh at the last day, when this old and tired creation will be rolled up like a scroll and exchanged for “a new heavens and a new earth.” (Apoc. 21:1)
The Saints do “rejoice in their beds”, having fought that good fight of faith, having struggled in this life and having shed copious tears, having fought with that great red dragon, “the old serpent, which is the devil and Satan” (Apoc. 20:2), and having won the victory over him in their own flesh.
“To him that shall overcome, I will give to sit with me in my throne: as I also have overcome, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” (Apoc. 3:21)
Truly they have fought, as the Psalmist sings, with the “two-edged sword”, the “sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17), the sword of the Old and New Testaments together which has the power to vanquish the ancient enemy of both God and men.
This is that sword which the Lord Jesus came to send upon the earth: “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword” (Matt. 10:34).
The two-edged sword of the Saints is that Word which is “living and effectual … and reaching unto the division of the soul and the spirit, of the joints also and the marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).
The Saints, continues David, have been “avenged of the heathen”, and they have “rebuked the people”. It is the Saints who, by their divine life and death, are the condemnation of the wickedness of this world, “the world of this darkness” as the Apostle says. They “bind their kings in chains”, that is, by the Word of Christ, they bind “principalities and power, the rulers of the world of this darkness, the spirits of wickedness in the high places” (Eph. 6:12).
“Now, brethren”, cries Saint Augustine, “you have seen the Saints armed; watch the slaughter, watch the glorious battles. If there be a general, there is also a soldier; if a soldier, an enemy; if a war, there is a victory.”
Indeed the Saints, the fierce Warriors of God, have “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ … having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience” (I Cor. 10:5).
“Do you not know,” says the Apostle to the Saints of the Church of Corinth, “that the saints shall judge this world?” (I Cor. 6:2) Is this not the promise of the Saviour himself? “Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28).
This vengeance of the Saints, this shining triumph, through the grace of Christ, over the powers of darkness, over sin and death, is the true “honour of all his Saints”, that “eternal weight of glory above measure” (II Cor. 4:17) which can only come through tribulation in this world. “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
These are the Saints: these are our brothers and sisters in Christ; these are our fathers and mothers in the Faith, these are those who have gone before us and now sleep the sleep of peace in Christ Jesus. These are those who teach us to chant the New Song, who show us what it is to be in Christ, to be a new creation.
These are wise Patriarchs and Prophets of God; these are the glorious Apostles and Martyrs; these are the brave Confessors; these are the God-bearing Ascetics; these are the pure Virgins with devout Matrons and Widows; these are those who have served the Lord in the cloister or in the world, in holy continence or in holy matrimony; these are the Saints, our friends who love us and who intercede for us always before the Face of God; these are they who, as a "a great cloud of witnesses", spectators looking down upon us as in a stadium, cheer us on as we “run by patience to the fight which has been proposed to us” (Heb. 12:1).
“All ye saints of God vouchsafe to make intercession for our salvation, and for that of all. Pray for us, all ye saints of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.”