Sunday, November 2, 2014

O Blessed Communion

"O blessed communion fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in thee for all are thine:
Alleluia! Alleluia!"
--For All the Saints, Hymn #287, 1982 Hymnal

One of the things I've noticed about myself is that I am keenly aware of "the seasons."  I'm not talking about summer, fall, winter and spring, which, in this particular part of the United States, are often simply called, "Too hot!" or "Too cold!" with about a week or two of "just right." I am talking about the church calendar, and the various occasions in the church calendar. The most recent is All Saints' Day, which many churches marked today, even though it was technically yesterday.

This is another time when what Christians, at least Christians still identifying with our roots in the early Roman Catholic traditions, have adopted what was a pagan custom and found meaning in it for ourselves. Pagans at this time of the year commemorate Samhain (pronounced Sowin) which is a time when the veils between the worlds of the living and dead have thinned and they remember the ancestors. We do the same thing in Christianity, even if we don't necessarily speak of it in those terms. We take this time to remember those loved ones who have died, and we reflect upon and give thanks for the communion of saints that have gone before us.

I realized that with this holy day coming up, my mind was on my mother, who died this year in February. As the weather transitioned from the season of "Too Hot" to "Too Cold," I discovered that I had in the inside pocket of my jacket several of her prayer cards from the funeral home. It seemed weirdly appropriate that they were there, and I pulled one out to put in my music folder. As we sang the traditional, "For All the Saints," I was able to have her looking at me with the smile I know would have been there if she were still in the flesh and with me. We didn't sing her favorite, ultra-Anglican, hymn, "I sing a song for the saints of God," but we did sing, "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," which had been in her funeral service. And while my particular church chose to stick to the readings assigned for 21 Pentecost, I was aware that elsewhere in the Episcopal Church, the Gospel lesson had been the Beatitudes...the same Gospel reading I'd selected for my mother's funeral. Clearly, it seems my mother was making sure the walls that separate us--the ones of living in this life and the next--were going to crumble some. Perhaps this is why the Patriots also won handily in their game against the Denver Broncos...

I have been touched with sadness through all of this.  There have been tears as I considered that I lost her this year... as well as friends who died quite suddenly and unexpectedly. Their memories are indeed for a blessing, and the loss is still fresh enough that it sometimes catches me when I realize that they are no longer here.

I keep remembering how I felt the day of my mom's funeral, held the day after my birthday and with more snow falling outside the church. Inside, I felt her presence, and I had an odd experience of sensing that she was sitting in the pew enjoying this celebration of her life. Today, I felt as though she was with me again and not just in a picture smiling back at me from my music folder.

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