Tuesday, November 01, 2005

For All the Saints

November First. All Saints Day. One of my favourite days in the church calendar. It was of little importance in the tradition in which I grew up, which paid no notice to the movement of the church year, that dignified process from the Sunday of Christ the King, through Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Pentecost and so on.

Much more importance was given to November 11. The lonely tones of The Last Post. The two minutes of silence. (An eternity to a child with frozen feet, and an inability to see anything but trousered legs and the bottoms of women's heavy winter coats.) A brass band pondering Abide With Me . Pipers lamenting. Slow and measured steps. The laying of wreaths at The Cenotaph. (Cenotaphs and Pyramids were about the same thing in my mind then...and when you think about it, I wasn't far off the mark.) Poppy wearing. There were huge crowds of still young sainted veterans, amongst them my father, who always refused to wear his medals, despite my mother's pleading. He was ever a self-effacing man. No doubt we honoured a few sinners too, both living and dead, who were also beloved by man and God. It escaped no one's notice that their courage had preserved the way of life we were privileged to enjoy.

But All Saints Day a few brief days earlier. Hard on the heels of Hallowe'en. It had passed without note. Not so now.

My list of saints has grown extremely long in the last years. And this year my heart has been deeply moved by the recent loss of two friends, both men, still in their prime. One was a lifelong friend, who with his wife, was generous of heart and lively of mind. He was, in Nouwen's terms a "spiritual strategist," someone whose visionary planning raised millions of dollars for charity and for the major educational institution for which he was head of planned giving. The other was a "quiet" man, with a pastor's heart, whose steadfastness in sickness and suffering brought him much admiration. He was my parents' pastor when my father was dying. He was at Dawsonwood Cottage the day they brought us a hospital bed and he helped Rob set it up in the dining room. On the day my father died, he dismantled that same bed, and trundled it out to the garage. A practical christian.

I copied this from Henri Nouwen (click on title above for link) and saved it for November 1.

The Garden of the Saints

The Church is a very human organization but also the garden of God's grace. It is a place where great sanctity keeps blooming. Saints are people who make the living Christ visible to us in a special way. Some saints have given their lives in the service of Christ and his Church; others have spoken and written words that keep nurturing us; some have lived heroically in difficult situations; others have remained hidden in quiet lives of prayer and meditation; some were prophetic voices calling for renewal; others were spiritual strategists setting up large organizations or networks of people; some were healthy and strong; others were quite sick, and often anxious and insecure. But all of them in their own ways lived in the Church as in a garden where they heard the voice calling them the Beloved and where they found the courage to make Jesus the center of their lives
Thank You God For All The Saints.


Lorna said...

Do they still have rememberance sunday and poppies. I'd forgotten all about that!

Connie said...

Yes they do, Lorna. We'll be having poppies and a minute of silence at church the Sunday closest to November 11. We'll be buying poppies for the next two weeks. There will be a service at the local cenotaph on the day itself, although it is no longer an official holiday except for banks in Ontario.

anj said...

Connie - You have reminded me of a ritual the boys and I used to do when they were younger. I have always loved All Saints Day, and the boys and I used to always visit a cemetery on that day when they were young and talk about death - and ancestors they would never meet, and important things that often are forgotten to talk about in the rush of our world. I think that helped them when their father died so suddenly. Death, although never experienced first-hand, was no stranger around our table.

I am sorry for the loss of your two friends, they sound like such good men. Tis a wonderful beautiful place, this garden of the saints you bring to mind.

Cindy said...

This is a beautiful, beautiful post, Connie. Thank you so much for it! Like yours, my religious background didn't give much (or any!) notice at all to All Saint's Day, an omission Scott and I are trying to correct for our own family as we raise our girls. Your post is an encouragement in that direction.

Fred said...

Great post. Happy belated All Saints Day!