Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Feast of All Saints

Today is the Feast of All Saints.  Traditionally, this day celebrates the saints who have gone on before us.  Traditionalists would not approve of what this church festival has become.  Most churches celebrate All Saints Day as the day we celebrate the lives of all our loved ones who have died, whether they were consistently saintly or not.  Traditionalists would only celebrate the lives of the truly beatified and the lives of those martyred for the faith.

I think that we could refashion this holiday to cover all those bases.  Those of us in non-Catholic faiths could probably use some instruction about what it takes to become a true saint.  We could all benefit by spending some time thinking about the behavior of the saints and how it is so different from our own.

At the same time, we could also benefit from celebrating the lives of the faithful who have gone on before.  As a Lutheran, I believe that none of us can behave our way to salvation, and yet many of us use that as an excuse not to worry about our behavior at all. 

Yes, today is a good day to think about how we could emulate the lives of the saints--or the lives of the faithful we have known.  Certainly we can begin with the lives of our lost loved ones.  What aspects should we invite into our lives?  From my mother-in-law, Carolyn Abbott, I would like to replicate her fierce love of and loyalty to her family members.  My grandfather Roof never gave away money to individual beggars, but he'd invite tramps to sit at the picnic table while he cooked them a fried egg sandwich; I'd like to emulate that hospitality.  My grandmother Roof began every day in devotional time; I'd be a more well-adjusted human if I followed her example.  My grandfather Berkey knew how to put everyone at ease with his charming graciousness; that kind of hospitality, too, I'd like to see more of in my actions.  My grandmother Berkey was always willing to put on a puppet show or a play; I'd like to meet people where they're living, the way that she did.

Here are some other ways to celebrate the Feast of All Saints:

--You might start with the lectionary readings for today:

First Reading: Revelation 7:9-17

Psalm: Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1-3

Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

--You could then light a candle as you remember the faithful in your life who have nourished you.  You could expand your thoughts to those who you didn't know who nonetheless have bolstered your faith.

--Write your living older family members a note or a card. Some day, you'll remember them on this feast day. Write them a note of appreciation now, while they are alive to appreciate your gratitude.

--Say a prayer of thanks for the saints who have gone before.

--Take a page out of the book of our Hispanic brothers and sisters. Prepare a picnic to share with the dead. Make some special sweet treats. This website has all sorts of interesting pages: recipes, photos of altars, and other interesting information.

--Plant some flowers. In many parts of the United States, now would be a great time to plant bulbs. Then in the spring, you'll have an additional treat.

--Remember your family stories. Even more important, start writing them down. You won't remember them forever. And there will be younger generations who will be starving for those stories.

--Make something with the herb rosemary, traditionally used as a symbol of remembrance. How about a chicken, roasted with rosemary, lemon, and garlic? Vegetarians can make a tasty bean soup with the same trio of rosemary, lemon, and garlic--add several cans of beans (whirled up in the blender, if you prefer a thicker soup) to your pot of rosemary, lemon, and garlic, and you've got an easy delicious soup. Throw in some steamed carrot pieces for an even more nutritious soup.

Here's a prayer I wrote for today:

Comforter God, we give thanks for all the saints who have gone before us.  Give us the wisdom, courage, and faith to follow in their footsteps.  And when the time comes that our earthly light will be extinguished, allow us to rest easy in the sure knowledge that we will be welcomed into the company of all the saints.

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