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Communio sanctorum

(Lat. “communion of holy people [things]”). Phrase added to the Apostles' Creed probably ca. the 4th c., perhaps in Gaul. Its original meaning is debated. Traditional interpretation holds that sanctorum is masculine and that the phrase means “communion of holy people.” The words have been variously understood: communion with departed saints and martyrs; communion with all believers (living and departed); fellowship of holy people (descriptive of the church*); communion of holy people in holy things. Since the end of the 19th c. the view that regards sanctorum as a neuter referring to the sacraments and other holy things of the ch. has become prominent. Evidence from the ancient and medieval ch. can be used in support of various meanings.

Luther tr. the phrase “die Gemeine der Heiligen” (communion of saints), taking sanctorum as masculine and referring the phrase to the fellowship that exists in Christendom. “Communion in holy things” and “communion of saints” are not necessarily divergent. “Communio” is dynamic rather than static, a participation with other Christians in holy things that make them one.

AC VII: “The church is the congregation of saints.” AC VIII: “The church properly is the congregation of saints and true believers.” Cf. Ap VII and VIII, LC II 47–54.

See also Fellowship; Koinonia; Niceta(s).

T. v. Zahn, The Apostles' Creed, tr. C. S. Burn and A. E. Burn, based on 2d ed. (London, 1899): W. Elert, Abendmahl und Kirchengemeinschaft in der alten Kirche hauptsächlich des Ostens (Berlin, 1954), tr. N. Nagel, Eucharist and Church Fellowship in the First Four Centuries (St. Louis, 1966); F. J. Badcock, The History of the Creeds, 2d ed. (London, 1938), pp. 243–272; J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Creeds, 2d ed. (London, 1960), pp. 388–397. EL


Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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