Tuesday, November 1, 2011

For All the Saints

A Blessed All Saints' Day to you!


Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.
The Collect for All Saints’ Day

The feast of All the Saints, which begins the month of November in joy and triumph, is a celebration of the call to share in God’s holiness. So convinced were early Christians that this was their destiny they routinely referred to each other as “the saints of God” without irony or blush.

To become part of Christ’s living body is to partake of the life-blood of holiness. We are to follow God’s blessed saints “in all virtuous and godly living,” as the collect for this Principal Feast bids us. Ordinary people are being transformed in the Church into an extraordinary People: the Holy People of God. As the First Letter of Peter says: “…you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” But what does that life look like? How will we know it?

The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) read on All Saints’ Day give us a clear and daring explanation. The saints of God—wherever they are and whenever they live—are all judged on the same basis. Are we peacemakers? Do we desire to be pure? Do we hunger and thirst after righteousness? Most importantly, do we live in poverty of spirit, wherein we become a vessel emptied of self so that we may receive and share God? These are the marks of the authentic saints. Even our worship is based on the Beatitudes: each Eucharist is both a revelation of God’s judgment of our life and a renewal in the grace to live a life worthy of the “ineffable joys” prepared for those who truly love God.

True saints are not interested in judging others but are keen to judge themselves. They submit all of their lives to the loving, redeeming, purifying care of the God who so fiercely desires to share Eternal Life with those made in his Image. When they fall, the saints turn back to God. When they succeed, they give the Love of their life the praise. When they are tried beyond their strength, they burrow down deep into the bosom of the one who was tried and found strong enough for all.

All Saints’ is but the greatest of the many feasts of the saints, scattered like seeds or gems throughout the year. The saints are people like us, indeed: human, limited, frail, and at times mistaken. But they are like us in another way: baptized into the power and strength of God. They beckon to us from every age and condition, reminding us that they know what it is to “fight the good fight” and to walk in our moccasins. They intercede for us because together we form “one communion and fellowship” of hope, endurance, and victory. For all the saints—their witness, their example, their encouragement—we give thanks not as passive observers but as active partners in God’s rescue mission to humanity through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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