I've seen some treatments of communion that encourage one to celebrate that their dearly departed relatives are coming up to an invisible railing behind the wall. This seemed to be a great sentiment but I was unclear on what Biblical or catechismal support they were using for this practice.

What Christian traditions specifically teach this sort of including the departed in communion? Is this practice something common to all Christian sects that profess a "real presence" of Christ in communion (i.e. does it have a place in the Catholic catechism, Presbyterian Common Book of Prayer, Book of Concord, etc.?) or is it isolated to a more specific doctrinal tradition? Can anyone trace the origin of this tradition?

  • As you originally framed this you are basically asking "should they be doing this or not". This is not a constructive question format for this site. Of course those who do it believe they should be and those who don't believe it's wrong. This site is not the place to even engage in much less settle these sort of disputes. I will try to rewrite this in a way that can be posed here, although this will just be one example and there are certainly other angles that could be taken as well.
    – Caleb
    Jun 27, 2013 at 8:16
  • Typed on a hurry; I like you cleaning here.
    – pterandon
    Jun 27, 2013 at 10:23
  • @Caleb, you turned my interesting question into a superb-for-SE question. By making it purely a List question. (Editorializing that's always fatuous VTC).
    – pterandon
    Jun 27, 2013 at 10:56
  • Anybody who reads only the title and gives a pedantic answer with nothing but a bullet point list is going to deserve the downvote for not-usefullness they will get from me. There is quite a bit more to this question that deserves an explanation from somebody with some knowledge of these traditions. Any expert worth their salt is going to be able to point you to the primary source(s) of this tradition and generalize which traditions subscribe to it in a way that is useful and informative. While more than one referent might be identified, the set involved is not an unreasonably sized scope.
    – Caleb
    Jun 27, 2013 at 11:06
  • Your editing is divine. "I will VTC this because it's a list question" is always fatuous.
    – pterandon
    Jun 27, 2013 at 11:13

1 Answer 1


Catholic's believe that each time Mass is celebrated it is done with the entire Communion of Saints. it would just be ones imagination at work seeing dead relatives at Communion, but in effect I think that is what Catholics believe.

To the offering of Christ are united not only the members still here on earth, but also those already in the glory of heaven. In communion with and commemorating the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, the Church offers the Eucharistic sacrifice. In the Eucharist the Church is as it were at the foot of the cross with Mary, united with the offering and intercession of Christ.

CCC 1370

and one of the names for the Eucharist (Communion) comes from the "Communion of Saints"

Holy Communion, because by this sacrament we unite ourselves to Christ, who makes us sharers in his Body and Blood to form a single body. We also call it: the holy things (ta hagia; sancta) - the first meaning of the phrase "communion of saints" in the Apostles' Creed - the bread of angels, bread from heaven, medicine of immortality, viaticum.

CCC 1331

So that takes care of the Church Triumphant, but the Church Suffering (the Holy Souls in Purgatory) can also be remembered and had the Sacrifice of Mass offered for their salvation

The Eucharistic sacrifice is also offered for the faithful departed who "have died in Christ but are not yet wholly purified," so that they may be able to enter into the light and peace of Christ:

CCC 1371

I believe Orthodox Christians believe the same thing since this is not a point of contention between the churches.

  • Not really relevant to this question, but I've nowhere else to write it. I wasn't intending to minimize the significant differences between The Lord's Supper and Mass, I just thought the questioner was confused about what 'Communion' was and needed a very simple explanation. Jun 27, 2013 at 13:30
  • @DJClayworth, my original agenda was that I saw a practice that I thought not only neglected the "main purpose" of a sacrament, but also overstressed a feature that I thought was foreign to tradition. Caleb (correctly) edited out the harangue from my Q. And Peter's answer documents how I'd forgotten important aspects of the tradition. Thanks to EVERYONE.
    – pterandon
    Jun 27, 2013 at 15:19

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