A Thin Time
The arrival of November was understood by our Celtic forebears as a
thin time when they experienced an increased permeability of the membrane separating the spiritual and temporal (time and space) dimensions. Consequently, this was the time of the year when they expected the souls of the dead to pass more easily through the membrane into this dimension; for them a fearful prospect hence the practice of face-painting and dressing in disguise to avoid being recognized by the dead. Halloween and All Saints-All Souls is the Christianization of this pagan Celtic festival.
All Saints is like flipping a coin. Heads the joyful celebration of All Saints November 1
st. Tails the commemoration of the departed or All Souls on November 2
nd. All Saints is a joyful expectation of an expansive experience following biological death of resting in the love of God. However, for us, death is accompanied by the emotions of grief and sorrow. The Christian Tradition in its wisdom recognizes that within the larger joyful celebration of all the saints, room must also be made for the human experience of loss at a death.
St Martin’s follows the current practice in most Episcopal Churches of transferring All Saints- All Souls to the following Sunday. This has the advantage of linking the celebration with a greater number of people’s Sunday observance. But it loses the more meditative reflection on the transitory nature of physical life -captured by a separate commemoration of All Souls.
The reading of the year’s mind is a remembering of the names of those whose deaths are recorded in our parish funeral register during the previous 12 months and is normally observed on All Saints Day. This Sunday is Bishop Nicholas’ annual visitation and we will read the names of those who have died in the past year in the Prayers of the People at
8 am only. At 9:30 am Bishop Nicholas will confirm and receive four members of the parish into communion with him as members of the Episcopal Church.
Bishop Nicholas comes to St Martin’s but once a year. Therefore, can I encourage all of you who are regular communicants to be in church this Sunday? Many of us are less regularly in church on Sunday - an inevitable reflection of the more complex patterns of modern life. As your Rector, I know that even when you are not present in church you remain deeply committed to our common life together. However, it’s more difficult for Bishop Nicholas to gauge this subtlety. It’s not that I want us to make a good impression, although I do want this. More importantly, as one of the most vibrant and energetic parishes in his diocese, I would like us to be an encouragement to him as he experiences the fullness of our joyful energy and spiritual vitality in worship.
This year, All Saints Sunday is an even more important day to see you all in Church!