Sunday was the Feast of All Saints. This is one of my favorite Feasts in the Liturgical year. The feast is celebrated in both the Eastern Orthodox and Western Churches such as the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, certain Lutheran Churches, as well as some Wesleyans and Methodist. The feast is celebrated on the First Sunday after Pentecost in the East and on November 1st in the West. In the Eastern expression it is celebrated in honor of all the Saints, known and unknown while in the West, Particularly the Roman Catholic Church it is dedicated to the Saints who have attained the beatific vision of heaven. Other churches in the West have different takes on this. I believe that the Orthodox which honor saints known and unknown is the more accurate position while at the same time not demeaning the Roman position.
Statue of Willibald in the Eichstadt Cathedral
For me this Feast is special as are other feasts commemorating individual Saints and Martyrs. I feel a special closeness to those who have gone before us and certain days. I really began to experience this shortly after being ordained as a Priest and being deployed to Würzburg Germany. My ordination service was head the evening of July 7th 1996 which was already July 8th in Germany. The 7th is the Feast Day of St. Willibald of Eichstadt which is in Bavaria between Munich and Nurnberg. Willibald was a Celtic missionary who worked with St. Boniface to help bring the Christian faith to Germany. Willibald settled in the area and served and the pastor and later the Bishop of Eichstadt serving as the bishop for 40 years. Willibald’s brother Wunibald was also as missionary to Germany and served in Thuringia, Mainz and the Oberpfalz finally ending up in Bavaria founding the Kloster at Heidenheim with his sister Walburga, who was a Nun. Wunibald died there in 761 AD. Wunibald’s feast day is December 18th which is also my baptismal date. July 8th is the Feast of St Killian, the patron saint and Martyr Bishop of Würzburg, the first place that I served as a Priest. October 6th the date of my Protestant Ordination in 1991 is the Feast Day of St Bruno the founder of the Carthusian Order and my birthday March 27th is the Feast day of Saint Rupert of Salzburg Austria and on the Anglican calendar it honors Bishop Charles Henry Brent. Bishop Brent was a missionary bishop to the Philippines and later served as the Senior Chaplain to the American forces in Europe and later as the Bishop the Western New York. There are two things that really connect me to Bishop Brent, first are his ecumenical views well expressed in this quote:
“The unity of Christendom is not a luxury, but a necessity. The world will go limping until Christ’s prayer that all may be one is answered. We must have unity, not at all costs, but at all risks. A unified Church is the only offering we dare present to the coming Christ, for in it alone will He find room to dwell.”
Bishop Brent penned the following prayer which is in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer and one of my favorite prayers:
“Lord Jesus Christ, who didst stretch out thine arms of love upon the hard wood of the Cross, that all men everywhere might come within the reach of thy saving embrace: So clothe us with thy Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know thee to the knowledge and love of thee; for the honor of thy Name.”
The prayer for his commemoration in the Book of Lesser Feasts and Fasts also is something that resonates in my heart. It is something that as a Chaplain and as a Priest I pray for daily and hopefully that I embody as I work with Christians of many backgrounds as well as those who are not Christians:
“Heavenly Father, whose Son prayed that we all might be one: deliver us from arrogance and prejudice, and give us wisdom and forbearance, that, following your servant Charles Henry Brent, we may be united in one family with all who confess the Name of thy Son Jesus Christ: who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”
For me the understanding that the Saints intercede for us at the very throne of God gives me great comfort, the fact that they too pray for me and hopefully I will pray for others from there when my time comes. When I have visited various shrines in Europe to include those of Saints Killian in Würzburg, Willibald in Eichstadt and Boniface in Fulda as well as others I have felt a real presence of God that is not ordinary. But also I realize that Saints who are not on any calendar are also interceding for us encourages me. When I think of those who taught me in the faith, which showed me the love of God, and left a legacy that stretched beyond their lives here and realizes that they too are in that great company of the faithful is a great comfort. I feel a connection with those saints whose feast days are somehow connected with days that are important in my life and realize the Communion of Saints as stated in the Creed is more than just an amorphous belief, but the extension of the Church beyond earthly bounds and that this is a reality that we are privileged to be a part of.
The morning the processional hymn at St. James was For All the Saints which is one of my favorite hymns. I think that the hymn states the essence of the Communion of the Saints more than I can do in my feeble attempts so I have placed the lyrics here:
For All the Saints
Text: William W. Howe, 1823-1897
Music: Ralph Vaughan Williams, 1872-1958
Tune: SINE NOMINE, Meter: 10 10 10 with Alleluias
For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
who thee by faith before the world confessed,
thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
Thou wast their rock, their fortress, and their might;
thou Lord, their captain in the well-fought fight;
thou in the darkness drear, their one true light.
O may thy soldiers, faithful, true, and bold,
fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
and win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
and hearts are brave again, and arms are strong.
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
singing to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
Anyway with my beliefs about the Communion of the Saints certainly pegging me as some sort of unbeliever to the Grand Master Pastor Marc Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church in Canton North Carolina I need to mention how he says the Halloween Book and Bible Burning went. It seems that the local law enforcement officials insisted that they take their event inside their church building. I guess that the church does not have a fireplace so they had to resort to other means to be good citizens and comply with the law. The website in bold letters claims “BOOK BURNING GREAT SUCCESS!” However they didn’t actually burn any books. It seems that they had to use scissors and their bare hands. I don’t know if they had a shredder available but Grand Master Pastor Marc puts it this way:
“Some have written praising God that he intervened and stopped the Book Burning because of the rain, protestors, and state laws about burning paper. Nothing was stopped. Our goal was to destroy garbage as noted below, and we did just that. We didn’t care how it was destroyed; only that it was destroyed. These same people must have never heard about “Paper, Rock, & Scissors.” Scissors cut paper, and paper tears real easy. We destroyed everything as planned. Praise God! God answered every prayer that everyone prayed, but they don’t like the answer.”
However they are planning for next year even as Grand Master Pastor Marc blasts his local Independent Fundamental Baptist neighbors: “If there were any disappointments, it was that there were no other Independent Fundamental Baptist churches or individuals standing with us locally on the KJV. They hook up with the Southern Baptist and the Freewill Baptist to fight the liquor crowd, and the abortionist, but will not stand with KJV, the Word of God.” Seems that his local brethren can’t stand him or his methods either, thank God for some people with some sense of reality. However he plans on people joining him next year saying: “Next year we will have others standing with us, as you will see. We have heard from hundreds of churches and individuals from around the world that will be happy to do the same thing next year.” We’ll see….
Anyway, to finish with him until next year or until he posts me on his heretic list, which I am thinking about asking him to do; I will share his one comment that puts everything in perspective. It seems that the Grand Master Pastor Marc actually places the King James Bible over God himself, or the Deity Herself: “God magnifies His Word above His name, and so do we.” This is called “Bibliodolatry” and it is as much of a sin as anything else, maybe worse because it involves putting a translation of the Word of God above God Himself. Sorry Marc, you are playing with fire….
Johnny Damon Helped Lead the Yankees in Game Four
Well the World Series is not being kind to the Phillies. Tonight’s game was close with the Phillies tying it on a Pedro Feliz home run with two outs in the bottom of the eighth inning. In the top of the 9th the Phillies brought in Brad Lidge who got Hideki Matsui to pop up to left and struck out. Then Johnny Damon fought off Lidge and singled to left. The Phillies shifted their infield to right when Mark Teixeira came up. Damon stole second and getting around Feliz went to 3rd which was not covered for 2 stolen bases in one play. Lidge then hit Teixeira bringing up Alex Rodriguez who is returning to his playoff clutch form doubled and scored Damon to give the Yankees the lead. Jorge Posada singled to drive in Teixeira and Damon to give the Yankees a three run lead. This brought the Phillies to the plate to face Mariano Rivera who shut them down in order. The determination on the faces of players like Rodriguez, Jeter, Damon, Teixeira and Posada shows a hunger to win the series. They are not gloating in interviews and keeping their cool. These guys want to win and I predicted that they would win in six, but it is possible with their bats coming alive that they could win it in five. In tomorrow’s game the amazing Cliff Lee and his 0.54 playoff ERA will face A. J. Burnett. I think that the pitching matchup favors the Phillies however it is conceivable that Lee could revert to his past performance against the Yankees and get hit hard.