Saturday, October 31, 2009

For All the Saints, Who From Their Labors Rest . . .

Tonight is Halloween (All-Hallow's Eve) and also Reformation Day (the observance of Martin Luther's nailing of the 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517, but that's another post for another time -- you can click here if you'd like a little musical tribute) and tomorrow in the Feast of All Saint's. When I was growing up and during my (Presbyterian) seminary education All Saint's Day got short shrift (either totally ignored or subsumed under Reformation Day/or Reformation Sunday). Becoming an Anglican meant that there was a Church Calendar to be learned and that All Saint's Day assumed an increasingly significant role.

Some years ago I listened to a series of talks that the Rev'd Dr. Rod Rosenbladt gave at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama, on the subject of fatherhood. In remembering his own father, now deceased, he mentioned that the time at which he is now closest to him is during Holy Communion. The remark was made in passing, almost as an aside, but it stimulated me to think further on the doctrine of the Communion of the Saints. Most Christians confess the Apostles' Creed as a summary of their belief and for those of us who use the Daily Offices we do so twice daily, reciting belief in the "communion of saints," but the extent to which that is driven home to us on a daily basis varies.

The fact of the matter is that there is only one Church, the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Despite the various divisions of it (Eastern/Western, Protestant/Roman Catholic, geographical, chronological) Christ has but one Church. That Church is in communion with one another and even with Him we are truly surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) and in communion with them. When we, as the Church Militant, gather around the table of the Lord we on earth take part in what is going on in Heaven with the Church Triumphant and look forward to that day when we will do so together as one. For that reason, Holy Communion is a time of blessed fellowship with Christ and will all of those who have died in the Lord.

As we worship we can rightly pray to God that we:
bless thy holy Name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear; beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service, and to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of thy heavenly kingdom. -- 1928 Book of Common Prayer
and in that we can rejoice with those whom we've loved who've gone to be with Him!

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