Sunday, November 04, 2012

all saints and all souls

in my mother's living room
I've been thinking a lot about ancestors lately -- mine in particular.  Living again in my mother's house for six days, reminiscing is unavoidable.  Remnants of generations past buried in each corner of her home, assuring all those with eyes to see the best sort of archaeological digs.  Where we no longer have a family member's presence, we hold their photograph, handwritten letter, childhood books, eyeglasses -- giving us unspoken, but quite concrete, clues to our own personhood.

All Saints and All Souls Days arrive in the church calendar right about the time our fickle memories begin to forget such manner of keeping time even exists.  Advent still a few weeks away, these two feast days invite us to begin remembering again.

 If the Church year provides us a pathway to journey through the life (and death and life again) of Jesus, then All Souls and All Saints Days remind us we do not travel alone.

 "On these 'thin days', as the ancient Celts called them, All Saints Day and All Souls Day (Nov. 2), we are invited to be aware of deep time when past, present, and future time all come together as one.... Protestants thought it was about “worshiping” saints, but that largely missed the point.
Actually this is a Christian meaning for reincarnation, which Christians also called “the communion of saints” in the Apostle's Creed. This was the common and corporate notion of the human person. It realized that our ancestors are indeed in us and with us (as modern DNA studies can now prove), and then early Christianity added maybe even for us! We were quite foolish to make fun of many Native and Eastern religions, which we dismissed as “mere ancestor worship” who usually had the more corporate notion of personhood, far removed from the myth of modern individualism...."
-- Richard Rohr

In my mother's house for six days, I remember.  I remember I am not alone in this world.  The liturgy of All Saints and All Souls remind us that many have come before us and many will come after.  We stand on shoulders and lay tracks.  We honor legacies and correct the error of their ways.  We look for resemblances, pass on stories, shake the trunks of the human family tree, hoping for a glimpse of what we once were, what we hope to become.

The Betty Crocker cookbook my mother received as a wedding gift; we use it for pie to this day.
 The handwritten notes archive many of our best pie-making family occasions.

All Saints
Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards
Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,
It glances from the eyes, kindles the words
Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright
With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,
The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.
Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing
He weaves them with us in the web of being
They stand beside us even as we grieve,
The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,
Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above
The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,
To triumph where all saints are known and named;
The gathered glories of His wounded love.

-- Malcolm Guite
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