Sunday, November 1, 2009

Connected in God's Love

I write this entry on the occasion of All Saints' Day in the church's liturgical year--November 1. Our society just widely celebrated Halloween, the evening before All Hallows' (Saints') Day. Today and the day following (All Souls Day or All Faithful Departed) is a special time for the Christian community to remember and give thanks for being connected through God's love with all those who support us in our lives, the saints who have gone before us who are witnesses to the spiritual foundation of our living, and also our personal circle of people who have touched our lives but have died.

That sense of being connected, even with those who are no longer living, is a powerful spiritual dynamic which can have a positive and negative side to it. In grief we might feel deeply connected to a deceased loved one and have that as a consolation--but we might also feel the pain of disconnection and insurmountable distance. Some of my directees or former parishioners have had things they wished to say to a loved one but death or incapacity came too soon for that to be expressed. And sometimes we miss people terribly. Times like All Saints' Day can be a special time, poignant and tearful perhaps, where we can be with a community that honors those who have been important to us and pray for them, and remember that by God's grace we are in communion with all the "saints" past, present, and yet to come.

Scripture gives us some hints of that connectedness. I think of Jesus' words in the gospel of John that he is the vine and we the branches (15:5); or Paul's moving statement of faith: "For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39).

That connectedness as a spiritual reality is something that I can occasionally intuitively, prayerfully, sense; and often just simply take on faith. There are times when I will pray to God to "pass" this or that little message onto my deceased loved one. Or some moment will come that reminds me of someone who has died or is geographically distant and I'll just speak to that person as an act shall I name this...imagination? that on some deep level we are all still connected? I know that in my heart, my inner world, there is room aplenty for the living and those who are no longer alive on this plane of reality; time and space are not such linear things there. That ancient Celtic intuition of "thin places" seems to be much more accessible.

I love this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 395):
Almighty God, by your Holy Spirit you have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness to your power and mercy. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, in whom all our intercessions are acceptable through the Spirit, and who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.

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