From the chair where I usually say my prayers, I can see several pieces of art. Even though one is a large abstract digital print and the other is a small landscape oil painting, they evoke a similar sense of mystery. I imagine the ways in which heaven meets earth, and where God’s kingdom intersects with earth and enters our hearts.
As I gaze at the landscape I think about those “thin places” we experience, where the Holy Spirit seems to draw near, where we experience a profound sense of God’s presence. When I contemplate the abstract print, the fluidity of lines, shadows and shapes somehow evokes the movement between the Divine and humanity, between heaven and earth. I imagine Jacob’s dream of the angels moving up and down a ladder.
The thought that boundaries between heaven and earth are fluid comforts me, as I pore over boxes of old family letters, photographs, journals and documents. The boxes are filled with details of past lives – people to whom I am related, yet some I have never met. As I read their thoughts and bear witness to their lives, they feel close by. I am drawn to other places and times. I am caught in that mysterious transcendence which we celebrate on All Saints’ Day.
The Proper Preface for All Saints’ Day describes so perfectly the intermingling of past and present, heaven and earth, the saints with all of humanity. “For in the multitude of your saints, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses, that we might rejoice in their fellowship…” I love the thought of rejoicing in the fellowship of the saints right now – in the present. For me the fellowship of saints includes both the “capital S” saints and the “lower case s” saints – the saints whose names are in our books, and the saints who have influenced our lives more directly.
Today I give thanks for the saints I have known, whose actions and care impacted my life. I remember my art teacher’s graciousness when I sought refuge from the storms of Middle School. I am grateful for a grandfatherly friend of my parents, with whom I corresponded for a dozen years, who shared family stories and his experiences as a blind man. I give thanks for the teachers and mentors in my children’s lives, who guided them and enriched their lives, opening up worlds of opportunities to them. I picture our 83 year old neighbor, Don, who would hold our children on his knee and recite German poetry to them. And I am grateful to relatives I did not know, but who left glimpses of their lives through letters, photographs and journals.
May we be aware of the great cloud of witnesses who surround us each day, and rejoice in their fellowship always.