Thursday, October 31, 2013

Remembering All The Saints

All Saint's Day is the church's Memorial Day, a day to remember all those who have died in the faith of Christ, as one of my favorite hymns says,
             For all the saints who from their labors rest,
             All who by faith before the world confessed,
             Your name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
             Alleluia! Alleluia! 

Regardless of your faith tradition, however, this is a good day to honor the faithfulness of the saints, all those who have been transformed through death into new life. And to give thanks for God's faithfulness to the saints; God's love, mercy, forgiveness. 

My Understanding of Sainthood
I must admit I have always held in some disdain how a deceased parent or spouse becomes a saint in the eyes of loved ones. All faults and foibles are conveniently forgotten. Well, after my mother died, I finally understood. We don't make them into saints. We don't need to reframe how they behaved, what they did while alive, in order to induct them into sainthood. We don't need to enlist them in the process of canonization, proving the miracles they did on earth. We have nothing to do with it, for they have attained sainthood through death, in death. Mom is now a saint. I feel such joy in that awareness. Not only are you now perfect, Mom, but I, too, will be perfect some day. I, too, will be a saint. We will be saints together. We will know each other in our perfection. 

For the time being, however, I am here and quite alive. All Saints Eve and All Saints Day give me the opportunity to connect to that which is larger than myself, bigger than the death of my beloved mother and others whom I have loved and now miss. In a way, All Saints Day prepares me for my own death.

The Purpose of Ritual
This calls for a ritual, however simple it may be. Barbara Bizou quotes Angeles Arrien in her book The Joy of Ritual, Spiritual Rituals to Celebrate Milestones, Ease Transitions, and Make Every Day Sacred, "Ritual is recognizing a life change and doing something to honor and support the change." p. 10. 

"Rituals keep us centered in the present, and at the same time allow us to deal with the past and envision our futures in a very healthy, directed way." (Bizou, p. 17)

My Ritual for My Mother
Therefore on the first All Saints Day following my mother's death, I placed the candle hospice had given us on my altar space in my office, along with pictures of Mom representing various times of her life.  Mom as a little girl, a toddler, with her grandmother. Mom in her 20's, in her beauty, sitting on a porch stoop; legs primly crossed at her ankles, hands folded in her lap. A formal portrait of me, about a year old, with her. I look adoringly at her. Mom and my grandma and me on a summer day on the farm. Mom is about 31. Mom and I on my daughter Kate's wedding day. She wears floral silk and her hair is perfectly coifed as always. Mom and Dad standing on the porch at Sweetwater Farm, our Ohio home, on a crisp, smell the apples, fall day. Two Christmas pictures: one of the three of us siblings with Mom and Dad. Dad is holding her hand. One of Kate and I with her, and she is holding her first great grandchild, Maren, only weeks old. We knew that would be Mom's last Christmas, but she radiated holiday joy, wearing red blazer and holly decorated Christmas shoes. Oh how she loved shoes. 

Rituals take place outside ordinary life and within sacred space, which I created by gathering those beloved pictures and by sitting in silence, remembering our connection and cherishing my union with her.  I created an intentional time to honor not only my mother, but my own feelings as well. And to move ahead in my own life. I offered these words:
            I bless you. I release you. I carry you always 
            and forever in all that is dearest to me. Amen."
                       Meditations for the Passages and 
                       Celebrations of Life, A Book of Vigils
                       Noela N. Evans, p. 17.

Your Chance to Create Ritual
What about you? Who are the Saints you need to remember? Who are the Saints you carry with you? How can you honor them and honor your connection to them? 
Here are some simple ways to consider:
Light a candle and sit in silence as if your Saint was with you.
Ring a bell and say your Saint's name out loud three times. Close by ringing the bell again.
Recall a special memory and share that with someone who misses that Saint as well. 
Give a gift to a charity that meant something special to your Saint.
Plant a tree. 
Spend time in walking meditation or walk a labyrinth.

In some way mark this time. Know that your Saint will be with you as do this. 

An Invitation
I invite you to share your experience of All Saints Day. What is your experience of ritual on this day or any day?

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