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by The Rev. Craig Lemming, Associate Rector

Sometimes, our minds wander during worship. Perhaps it’s because we are so familiar with the words that our minds switch to “auto-pilot” and we don’t really think about what we are saying when we recite the Creeds. At Evensong on Sunday, we chanted The Apostles’ Creed and we affirmed our belief in “the communion of saints.Thankfully, my mind was fully engaged, and our chanting of this phrase in the Apostles’ Creed reminded me of my favorite portion of our Catechism, found on page 862 in The Book of Common Prayer:

Q.

What is the communion of saints?

A.

The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those
whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament,
prayer, and praise.

 

 

Q.

What do we mean by everlasting life?

A.

By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we
are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully
knowing and loving God and each other.

 

 

Q.

What, then, is our assurance as Christians?

A.

Our assurance as Christians is that nothing, not even
death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in
Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.


I am deeply comforted by these three responses which conclude our Catechism. As we approach the Feast of All Saints on November 1st and the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd, may we come to know this Truth again: that every person is indeed a member of “the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” and that all of our relationships – broken or whole; mended or un-mended – are indeed “bound together in Christ.”

On the Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, when we pause to remember “those whom we love and those whom we hurt,” we oftentimes do not know where to bring our complex feelings of joy and celebration comingled with feelings of grief and loss. I would like to offer two rituals I participate in – one sacred and public, the other secular and private – which help me to embrace and bless these intense and intricate sentiments.

For the Feast of All Saints, in lieu of Sung Compline, we will celebrate Holy Eucharist at St. John’s on Thursday, November 1st at 7:00 p.m. We will be blessed to have the exquisite musicians of LUMINA women’s ensemble who will offer anthems and sing the Ordinary of the Mass by composers spanning the centuries from the Medieval and Renaissance eras to contemporary masters to celebrate this Holy Feast Day. In the “beauty of Holiness” I can bring the bitter-sweet emotions All Saints’ Day evokes in me, and together with members of my faith community, celebrate and partake in Holy Eucharist. I hope you will join us on the evening of All Saints’ Day to “be filled with God’s grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Christ, that God may dwell in us, and we in God.

The secular and private ritual I find deeply comforting, is to meditate with the German art song, Allerseelen or “All Souls’ Day” by Richard Strauss. I invite you to join me in this ritual on All Souls’ Day: make a list of all your loved ones who are now deceased; speak their names silently in your hearts or aloud on lips; cherish a fond memory of each of them; and then, listen to this exquisite performance of Richard Strauss’s Allerseelen linked below, following along with the English translation. As you do all of this, remember, “By everlasting life, we mean a new existence, in which we are united with all the people of God, in the joy of fully knowing and loving God and each other,” and that “nothing, not even death, shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.”

Poem by Hermann von Gilm

Stell auf den Tisch die duftenden Reseden,
Die letzten roten Astern trag herbei,
Und laß uns wieder von der Liebe reden,
Wie einst im Mai.

Gib mir die Hand, daß ich sie heimlich drücke,
Und wenn man’s sieht, mir ist es einerlei,
Gib mir nur einen deiner süßen Blicke,
Wie einst im Mai.

Es blüht und duftet heut auf jedem Grabe,
Ein Tag im Jahr ist ja den Toten frei,
Komm am mein Herz, daß ich dich wieder habe,
Wie einst im Mai.

All Souls’ Day
English Translation by Richard Stokes

Set on the table the fragrant mignonettes,
Bring in the last red asters,
And let us talk of love again
As once in May.

Give me your hand to press in secret,
And if people see, I do not care,
Give me but one of your sweet glances
As once in May.

Each grave today has flowers and is fragrant,
One day each year is devoted to the dead;
Come to my heart and so be mine again,
As once in May.

English Translation: Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder (Faber, 2005)

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