October 31, 2016
I grew up in France, where All Saint’s day (“Toussaint”) is a national holiday celebrated mainly by a two-week vacation for schoolchildren. At the time I did not bother to wonder what the weeks of freedom commemorated, and it was only recently that I stopped to think about those early holidays in conjunction with the Church celebration I have come to love.
All Saint’s day is, at its simplest, a Feast day commemorating all of the saints, known and unknown. Woven into the tribute is a call to holiness, as the collect from the Book of Common Prayer reminds us. “Give us grace,” it intones, “to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living.” This day is an opportunity to celebrate the heroes of the faith—and they have much to teach us.
The Anglican Communion gives us a list of saints ancient and modern, from the likes of the apostles and early church Fathers to George Herbert, Florence Nightingale, and C.S. Lewis. Clearly these are people worth imitating.
Yet All Saint’s Day is more than just a call to remember and emulate (Hebrews 12:1). It is also meant to draw us into the “communion of saints” that we proclaim belief in when we say the Nicene Creed. This communion is a theological reality that reminds us that all believers are in fellowship through Jesus Christ, including the dead who are now truly alive in Christ. Rather than a musty heritage, it is a deep and beautiful connection full of the living breath of the Spirit. As such All Saint’s Day is a day to celebrate fellowship and community, not just a litany of names.
We will see this enacted on Sunday (November 6) when individuals are baptized into the Church family, and when we join together in the Eucharistic feast. Beyond the Sunday church service, we can enact this Feast day in our communion with friends and family, enjoying the communion of saints and beckoning others into it. Christians have a large and holy family both on earth and in heaven, and on this All Saint’s day at Resurrection we are blessed to be called to a Family celebration.
June 02, 2014
Every family has its own birthday traditions. In my husband's family, you were allowed to eat sugary cereal and stay in your pajamas and play video games all day. In mine, we picked our favorite meal and cake and helped my mom cook them. Interestingly enough, the Church has her own birthday tradition. In it, her people wear red and eat bread and drink wine and celebrate baptisms. This tradition is called Pentecost, and it is our spiritual birthday.
The story of Pentecost is remarkable. The apostles and Jesus' followers are all gathered together to celebrate the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' descent from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Suddenly, the sound of a strong wind descends from heaven and they are each crowned with tongues of flame. Perhaps, having followed Jesus around and seen his miracles, this did not faze them too much. But then something happened that changed their lives–and ours–forever: they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before that moment they were individual followers of Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit descended, the Church as we know her was born.
I don't know about you, but I still get excited when my birthday rolls around. I begin anticipating days beforehand, and it saddens me when a close friend or family member forgets it. It stands to reason then that I should get excited when I know Pentecost is coming. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church body grew from a small group of Israelites to an international force. On this feast day we at Resurrection join in celebration with our fellow body members all over the world and rejoice that God has given us his Spirit and in doing so united us as one Body. Now there's a true cause for celebration.
Remember to wear red or another bright “fire" color like orange or yellow on Pentecost.