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07 November 2007

The Clarity of All Saints' Day

Last year after my grandmother died I wrote a eulogy piece which made mention, in part, of the All Saints' Day service that had just passed.

Well, here I am returning to that service, and day, 2007 version. I don't know if this will be a regular annual post, but maybe it should be.

All Saints' Day may be my favorite day of the church calendar. Perhaps no other service offers the clarity of reality - every bit of it, or as close as we can get to it - as this one. During this year's service, though I only tangentially knew one of the departed persons whose name was read from the roll, I once again grew increasingly weepy with each bell that tolled. The familiar John Rutter "Requiem" piece that followed never fails to utterly shake me, and for a while, at least, I felt that I saw myself for just how rotten, and yet loved, I am. And then, at the end of the service, when a small Dixieland ensemble led us out with "When The Saints Go Marching In" (also, for the past few years, a staple of this particular service), I felt as alive as it is possible to be.

It never occured to me how allegorical the service is, the Christian story in microcosm. Even the presentation of "When The Saints..." fit this bill, moving from up-tempo to downcast to ecstatic. Plus, we had the added benefit of celebrating Communion on this same day. Our minister's words struck me as perfectly descriptive: (paraphrasing) "We've all just experienced a little foretaste of Heaven itself. There are no bitter feelings between us, and no burdens right now. This is how it will be."

Growing up Southern protestant, I didn't even have a concept of special days on the church calendar except for Christmas, Easter, and maybe Pentecost. But over time many Methodist churches (and others) have sought to re-align themselves (to varying degrees) with certain traditions that all Christians share in their heritage, though that are mostly associated with Catholicism in the contemporary mind. Fortunately my church has embraced much of this, but it seems strange to most non-Catholics around here. Interestingly, for the last couple of weeks my parents had been talking about the upcoming All Saints' Day service at their church (the church I grew up in) as well.

Three cheers for the old becoming new again, and for the pain and joy of All Saints' Day.

1 comment:

Belle said...

WOW. I'll take this as a complement! Our music director worked really hard on this day...(and my arm was sore for two days after tolling at two services!)