Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Terrance KleinNovember 01, 2022
Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplashed

A Reflection for the Feast of All Saints

Readings: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 1 John 3:1-3 Matthew 5:1-12a

We say, “wait and see.” It is a common expression, but today we need no longer do much of it. Unlike our ancestors, we can readily turn on a necessary light and look. For the most part, we only use the expression “wait and see” as a way of telling another to be patient.

Emily Dickinson wrote a small poem about what it means to be a saint, though she does not use the word. She likens eternal life to the longed-for light of day when she can finally be seen for who she truly is. In the same dawn, shadows give way to substance.

At last to be identified!
At last, the lamps upon thy side,
The rest of life to see!
Past midnight, past the morning star!
Past sunrise! Ah! what leagues there are
Between our feet and day!

The Solemnity of All the Saints reveals the relationship between who we are and who we should become, between time and eternity, between ourselves and the saints. It teaches us, in the words of William Blake, that “eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

Think of time as a coming and going. Everything passes. People enter our lives, and then they are gone. The same is true of us: We came, and we will go.

There are great religious traditions that disdain all that passes in favor of what might best be called “the Absolute,” a term for what stands beneath and beyond anything wrought in time.

The Solemnity of All the Saints reveals the relationship between who we are and who we should become, between time and eternity, between ourselves and the saints.

The absolute is not a person, and therefore not our understanding of God. In this line of thought, personhood, because it is created in time, is ephemeral. You may think your struggles matter, but you, and they, will soon enough pass back into a primordial unity from which everything came.

Emily Dickinson’s poem has an utterly different understanding of eternity. “At last to be identified.” She emerges into the dawn that follows death as a person, one who can now be seen for who she is and one who finally sees the world for what it is. “At last, the lamps upon thy side, / The rest of life to see!”

This is the Christian understanding of eternity, one forged in the resurrection of Christ. Our faith does not disparage all that comes into and out of time. Jesus emerges from the darkness of death as the person he was, though he is seen in his glory, which is another way of saying that he, like the poet, is revealed in the fullness of who he truly is.

The risen Christ does not reintegrate himself into the world. That is not the meaning of the post-resurrection experiences. No, in them the disciples discover that their world can only be read, can only be comprehended, in the light of who Christ is, in the reality of his resurrection.

To celebrate a saint, those acknowledged by the church universal and those known only to us, is to celebrate someone who has entered the dawn, not to become less of a person, but to be the person she was always becoming, always meant to be. In eternity, people, places and events coalesce into a final pattern, a complete person, a Gospel beatitude personified. They do not melt into an absolute. No, what they became in time becomes absolute.

Beloved, we are God’s children now;
what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is (1 Jn 3:2).

To be a person is to stand in relationship. Heaven, more than anything else, is a relationship. It is the place where loves are sealed, made full and permanent, glorified. Heaven’s saints will be “the lamps upon thy side.” They mutually reveal each to the other.

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue (Rev 7:9).

We will remain—indeed only fully become—persons in heaven because we will love God in glory, in fullness. Every saint forges an identity on earth that does not pass away. It becomes complete and glorified in the new world where God, who never came and went, now lives in love with those who once did, who walked long in the darkness to be who they are in the light.

Past midnight, past the morning star!
Past sunrise! Ah! what leagues there are
Between our feet and day!

The latest from america

A red book containing sheet music
Results of a poll of 9,000 Christian churches last December were released this Dec. 1. What Christmas carols made the Top 10?
Coast Guard Station Islamorada small boat crew follows an overloaded sailing vessel off Rodriguez Key, Florida, Nov. 21, 2022. Rescue crews battled six to ten feet seas and 25 miles per hour winds to safely remove the people from the vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Lt. Robert Collins)
People who hope to escape Haiti’s cholera outbreak and life-threatening insecurity cannot wait for a more welcome climate to emerge in the United States.
Kevin ClarkeDecember 05, 2022
Dan Lipinski, one of the last pro-life Democrats to serve in Congress, calls on the pro-life movement to come together on federal legislation that limits abortion and supports pregnant women and their children.
Daniel LipinskiDecember 05, 2022
jesuit father marko rupnik speaks in front of a microphone
Slovenian Jesuit and artist Father Marko Rupnik has been barred from hearing confessions or offering spiritual direction after complaints about his ministry.