Feast of All the Faithful Departed: All Souls’ Day
There is an old evangelical saying that comes to mind each year at this time: name it, and claim it. The idea is that you name some virtue, or aspect of God, claim it as yours, and live it as a reality. The idea is to name something, like God’s love for you, to claim it as yours, and then to live, not as if it were true, but live in the reality of its truth. Without using this name it and claim it phraseology, Father Benson uses the sentiment when he reminds us that we are to live … as those who have been with Jesus. He doesn’t tell us to live as if we have been with Jesus, but to live in the present reality of that relationship.
For me, All Souls’ Day is one of those occasions when we are invited to name and claim something, not for ourselves this time, but for others. It’s a bold move, because we are naming and claiming nothing less than the healing, redeeming, and sanctifying love of God, not for ourselves, but for those we love, but see no longer. We do this, not as if what we say in the Creeds is true, but living in the truth of the Creeds, where we proclaim I believe … in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
What we are doing today is claiming those very things: the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. We claim them, not for nameless entities, not in a general, universal way, but for specific people who we love. Note, we name and claim these things, not for people whom we loved once upon a time, but for people who we still love, but see no longer.
So today, we name and claim, name by name, name by name, name by name, our lasting and abiding relationship with those whom we continue to love through the communion of saints. We name and claim, for them the forgiveness of sins, because like us they are in need of God’s mercy. We name and claim for them the resurrection of the body, because they have not disappeared into some sea of nothingness, but are individuals, not with bodies like ours, but in God they remain themselves. We name and claim for them, the life everlasting, because this is the promise of God and the hope of Christians, that we will live forever in company with Jesus, in the very heart of God.
I love All Souls’ Day, because today of all days, I lay claim to the truth of the Creeds. I lay claim to those truths, not in some theoretical way, but in a tangible way as they give voice to my claiming of God’s love on behalf of real individual people, who have names, and whom I continue to love. I lay claim to the communion of saints, to the forgiveness of sins, to the resurrection of the body, to the life everlasting, not just for myself, or in some general, intangible way, but for real people whom I continue to love, and who continue to love me. I lay claim to these truths, not as if they are true, but to the reality of those truths for Carol and Bev, Jessie and Wes, Mavis and Charlie and Florence.
So today, I invite you to do just that. Name and claim for yourself the reality of God’s healing love and mercy in the person of Jesus. Name and claim that same healing love and mercy for others, especially those whom you love, but see no longer. Name and claim the healing love and mercy of God, not as if they are true, but in all the reality of their truth.
I believe … in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting are not just pious words, given to us by wise men long ago. They are true. And we name and claim the reality of their truth today, and perhaps most especially today, not just for ourselves, but for all those whom we carry in our hearts, whom we love, but see no longer.
Benson, Richard Meux, Spiritual Readings: Christmas; page 260
BCP, page 504
BCP, page 120
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