Thursday, November 1, 2007
All Saints' Day
Aaaah, one of the most joyous holy days of the year -- All Saints' Day! On this day, we celebrate all of the holy people who, for the past two thousand years, have followed Christ with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This pilgrim pathway we walk in not an untrod road; Christians have walked this path, this Way, for two millenia and have given us encouragement, warnings, exhortation, and, most of all, the example of a beautifully Christ-led life. As St. Paul taught the Church in Philippi, "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you" (Phil. 4:9, my emphasis). As St. Paul exhorts the Church to follow his human example as a follower of Christ, so may we also look back through the ages to the examples of other saints, other holy people, and draw encouragement and lessons from their lives.
Reading stories of saints who were martyred is one way to be encouraged in our faith. I rather like the recent publications from Voice of the Martyrs and the Christian band DC Talk called Jesus Freaks; I think that at least two volumes are available. These books relate both classic and modern stories of those who suffered and/or died for the Christian faith. The stories, though not easy reading, are encouraging in that we can learn more about these ordinary people who are placed in extraordinary circumstances and clung to Christ through persecution, torture, and often eventual death. Yet even our own ordinary lives, often lived in relative quiet and seeming ease, can also be extraordinary just because Jesus lives within us. No Christian is truly "ordinary" since we live in Christ and He lives in us. Tales of both Catholic and Protestant martyrs are found in Jesus Freaks (unlike Foxe's Book of Martyrs), so my little ecumenical heart thrills to these recent books.
If reading martyrdom stories isn't your cup o' tea (which I completely understand), then I would challenge my evangelical/Protestant friends to read up on a Catholic saint or two. Some great saints to learn about are St. Therese of Liseaux, Mother Teresa, St. Benedict (I'm reading his rule right now), St. Cecilia, St. Dominic, St. Francis, St. Joan of Arc, St. Jerome, St. Augustine (his Confessions is a classic!), St. John of the Cross, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. George ... the list could go on forever. And if you're a Catholic friend, I encourage you to read about some of the saints of the Protestant tradition: John and Charles Wesley, Charles Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards, John Milton, Isaac Watts, Fanny Crosby, John Newton, William Wilberforce, and etc. Try to inform yourself (and perhaps even allowed yourself to be inspired) by saints in traditions other than your own. Doing so can be a mind-stretching (and perhaps even a soul-stretching) experience, and perhaps will strenghthen our appreciation of and love for each other, as Jesus Himself calls us to do.
The Collect (a prayer to be prayed collectively, not only by a congregation but throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion) for All Saints' Day from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer is as follows (and is to be prayed daily throughout the Octave (for eight days, through next Friday):
O Almighty God, who hast 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 hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle Reading for this Holy Day can be found in seventh chapter of the Revelation to St. John, starting in the second verse. (Revelation 7:2-4, 9-17)
The Gospel Reading for All Saints' Day is written in the fifth chapter of the Gospel according to St. Matthew, starting in the first verse. (Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes).
I hope to attend the All Saints' Day service tonight at Victoria Chapel with Alpine Anglican Church of the Blessed Trinity. If I am not able to do so, at least this morning in our homeschool devotional time the kids and I prayed the Collect and read the Epistle and Gospel readings for this Holy Day. We also discussed the Saints and what a blessing we can all be in helping and encouraging each other in this Christian life as well as looking back through the ages to find other wise and holy people who can also encourage us through their example and, sometimes, their own writings. We are so blessed to be able to share this pilgrim pathway with other believers both in the present and from the past. What a beautiful gift from God to His saints!
As I read this morning in Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest:
"There is no such thing as a private life -- 'a world within a world' -- for a man or woman who is brought into fellowship with Jesus Christ's sufferings. God breaks up the private life of His saints, and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other." ("Ye Are Not Your Own," November 1)
For Christians, all of our lives entwine around each others'. No one is separate; no one is alone. And today, All Saints' Day, is one day in which we can formally and joyfully celebrate our union as brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the ages. A blessed All Saints' Day to you!