Writer and blogger Victoria Emily Jones posts regular blogs under the title “Art and Theology.” She has posted the above image on the occasion of the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene (July 22). She writes that the American artist, writer, and minister Jan Richardson “created a sequence of collages picturing events from [St. Mary Magdalene’s] life, drawing on both the biblical narratives and medieval legends. The structure and presentation (decorative borders, Latin script) were inspired by medieval books of hours, used for the praying of the Divine Office. The text below each image reads, Deus, in adiutorium meum intende; Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina (“O God, come to my assistance; O Lord, make haste to help me”), the first verse of Psalm 70, which is prayed at the start of each of the canonical hours.

“According to legend, after Jesus’s ascension Mary Magdalene moved to southern France, where she preached the gospel and performed miracles. The last thirty years of her life she lived as a hermit in a cave. Each time she prayed the hours, she was lifted up to heaven by angels, then brought back down at the end of her devotions.”
You can see the images to the accompaniment of music composed by Richardson’s late husband, Garrison Doles, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xA3D-T4BSM4&t=4s

Why do we commemorate St. Mary Magdalene, or any other saint for that matter? Saints are those who have opened themselves completely to the infinite love of God and allowed it to pour through them onto every person they meet, everything they touch. Saints are in communion not only with angels and other Saints, but with everybody and everything. They are open to the whole of creation. The Communion of the Saints is not a doctrine we must believe because it because it is part of our Creed, but a reality of love we must live. It is not a teaching about saints who have departed and gone to heaven, but an awareness of their living presence. It is a “living intercourse between persons”: present, past, and future, made possible to us by the presence — beyond space and time — of the Holy Spirit in each . Communion of Saints is eternal life of heaven already present to us and in us; it is the true life of the Church.

The Church on earth, however human and sinful it may appear to us to be, participates already in the life of the Church in heaven. The Church is a communion of persons, the living and the dead. We are all connected, present to each other, supporting each other, sharing all the gifts and treasures of our faith. And, above all, we have the Holy Spirit: the gift of the presence of God. This is the essential reality of our faith. Christ is among us and we are one with the heavenly Church.

And what about our own dead? It is surprising how rarely most of us, although we claim to believe in “eternal life”, think of our dead as actually present to us. We remember them and mourn them, we think of them with love — or, sometimes, with pain and regret — but we do not really believe in their presence with us. We think it is too late to get to know them better, to love them more, or to be reconciled with them. Why is it too late? What is to prevent us from getting to know those who have already died? Why is it too late to form a relationship with them? Why is it too late to forgive, and be forgiven? Our dead have not gone from us: they, too, are within the Communion of Saints; they pray for us, we pray for them and our relationship continues. Love does not end with death.