This past Sunday was All Saints’ Day, a day on the liturgical calendar that carries a certain mystique—and perhaps an air of ghostliness, especially for my Evangelical friends.
Ever-accommodating to the every-Sunday-is-Resurrection-Sunday set—his congregation is smack dab in the heart of the South—our Anglican church pastor (dare I say priest?) explained how All Saints’ marks the end of the year’s Ordinary Time. After six months of wearing a green stole around his neck, Eddie fingered the silken, creamy white vestment of All Saints’ Day. The color white points to one of Sunday’s readings:
After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God with sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. ~ Revelations 7:9-10 (KJV)
Eddie told us his white stole was not new, but, in fact, about a hundred years old and from France—so worn previously by a saint (or two or three!). He had me at “church calendar,” but at this I smiled down at my hands, folded on my lap. I am a sucker for stuff that comes with a story. Jackpot: liturgical backstory and vintage fashion—and, oh yeah, salvation—all wrapped up in one sermon!
Sooner or later, you come into your own. There’s no fighting it, I am a Book of Common Prayer (Rite I, thank you), incense-down-the-aisle sort of gal, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be. During my twenties and thirties, I wandered the holy rollin’ wilderness, but I circled back. (Hi, Mom! Hi, Dad!)
How my soul had been thirsting for a long, cool draft of tradition. With a capital T.
Which might be why at this time of year, I am like a coiled Slinky, ready to march down the stairs toward Advent, Christmas, Epiphany. I want it all.
Tradition grounds me, reminds me that there is a time for this, a season for that. They say smell is the sense that provides the most direct route to memories and emotions, even those deeply buried. I’m pretty sure, however, my keenest sense is tied up in rituals, in coming round to the same old ways and familiar words, again and again. For me, tradition taps into times gone by—and the sense that God is very near.
Still, part of me is bewildered: How have we landed so quickly on November, speeding straight toward the most wonderful (and by far the busiest) time of the year? Am I ready?
And how, Eddie reminded, do we remain faithful in a world of fear? A question for the ages. As Lanier said, it has been a year. But as 2017 careens to a close, we look beyond.
We look to those lines, Eddie explained, in the Lord’s Prayer—thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
On earth as it is in heaven, the very notion I have been working through this year, a theme, if you will. On All Saints’ Day, as Eddie spoke, I remembered a reading I once heard of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic—from the lips of a man who is now, of all things, a saint.
Father Joe, five years gone, stumbled not that Sunday as he colored ancient Aramaic with his Texas drawl. He was a rare bird—a Baptist-turned-Episcopalian, all booming laughter and maxims like “There are no coincidences, only providences.” Joe-in-the-pulpit was a treat when Luke and I would travel to Kentucky, visiting my parents and their beloved St. Luke’s, a stone church with red doors, a Norman tower, and a bell, to boot. We sat in the family’s regular pew, on the left, second from the front. We sat so close, I could see Father Joe spit.
Oh Thou, from whom the breath of life comes,
who fills all realms of sound, light and vibration.
May Your light be experienced in my utmost holiest.
Your Heavenly Domain approaches.
Nehwê tzevjânach aikâna d’bwaschmâja af b’arha.
Let Your will come true – in the universe
just as on earth.
Hawvlân lachma d’sûnkanân jaomâna.
Give us wisdom for our daily need,
Waschboklân chaubên wachtahên aikâna
daf chnân schwoken l’chaijabên.
detach the fetters of faults that bind us,
like we let go the guilt of others.
Wela tachlân l’nesjuna
Let us not be lost in superficial things,
ela patzân min bischa.
but let us be freed from that what keeps us off from our true purpose.
Metol dilachie malkutha wahaila wateschbuchta l’ahlâm almîn.
From You comes the all-working will, the lively strength to act,
the song that beautifies all and renews itself from age to age.
Sealed in trust, faith and truth.
Lovely, no? And how lovely (lovingly!) it is when dots connect—I have a hunch this happens more times than we catch. Things have a way of coming back round— sermon topics, Episcopalians turned Evangelicals turned Anglicans, seasons.
And so here we are, on the cusp. Yes, there is much to be done, preparations to be made. Yikes—I feel you on that. But I, for one, (at least want to) want to fling open the doors: Come!