10/29/21: A Message from Rev. Eric
In the ancient Celtic Church, there was a teaching about the “thin times” and the “thin places.” This vocabulary was used to describe those moments in our lives in which the “veil” between heaven and earth became thin. These terms were used to describe those holy moments in which one could feel the presence of those who have gone before us in the faith; those times or places set aside in which one could experience the presence of the divine and those “things unseen.”
For me, one of the “thinnest” times in my own life are those moments when I am standing at the altar on a Sunday morning. It is there that I gaze out upon you, the gathered Body of Christ. It is there that I look out upon the awe striking beauty of our rose window, and lift my eyes toward the angels in the rafters, reminding me that I am but a very small part of a vast created order. Angels and archangels and “the vast expanse of interstellar space” are all called forth and have their being from the God who created them and that we raise our voices in praise with creatures our eyes have never beheld. It is there at the altar where we participate in a tradition that has been experienced by hundreds of generations. It is there at the altar, in which I am reminded that we are receiving a foretaste of a heavenly feast. I am always cognizant of the fact that in that moment, when we are elevated into the presence of God we are also participating alongside countless throngs of faithful people who have gone on before us–who have blazed the trail through the darkness of death and entered into the fullness of God’s presence.
This upcoming Sunday, we will observe All Hallows Eve. A very interesting holiday with a fascinating history–a carnivale similar to the feasting that developed around Mardi Gras before the austerity of Lent.
In the Prechristian Celtic world, the festival of Samhain was a harvestime festival and was a time of much feasting when the great burial mounds were believed to become “thin” and where entrances to the otherworld were opened. Christian Missionaries in Britain saw a corollary with the Christain teaching of the Communion of Saints, the teaching that there is an unbroken chain of faithful people who have entered into the waters of baptism and who have been raised to new life, sharing in Christ’s Death and Resurrection. It seemed logical to those early Christian Teachers to align the Christian festival commemorating this idea on the date when people were already accustomed to acknowledging that there is a world that exists beyond the physical world.
Over time this became a sort of autumnal triduum. The great Triduum in the spring is the three most important days of the church year: Maundy Thursday through Easter Sunday. In the Fall, we have an echo of these three significant days with All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, known colloquially as “All Souls”. All Saint’s is one of Seven Principal Feasts of the Church Year. All Saints is observed in remembrance of those who were steadfast examples in the faith, people whose lives made visible God’s grace in the midst of human history. Our calendar of saints in the Episcopal Church includes many traditional Saints like St. Mary, and St. Paul as well as more modern Saints like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Florence Nightingale. All Souls remembers all those who have gone before us in the faith. Both show us the significance of remembering that we are part of a great chain of faithful people all of whom make up the great mosaic of God’s beloved children.
At St. Paul’s this year, we are living into the merry carnivale aspect of All Hallows Eve this Sunday by dressing in costumes at the 9:00 service and by having a festival on the lawn. The following Sunday, November 7th, we will commemorate All Saints by having festive Eucharists on Sunday morning, and we will commemorate All Souls with a solemn Choral Eucharist at 5:00 p.m., The Faure Requiem Mass, a beautiful piece written to commemorate the dead. Faure wrote of his Mass that it “is dominated from beginning to end by a very human feeling of faith in eternal rest.” We will light candles for those whom “we love but see no longer.” We do all of this as a parish family to remind ourselves that we are a part of something much grander than ourselves and that we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have gone before us and who cheer us on from the other side as we each persevere on our earthly pilgrimage. I invite you to join us in observance of these three important days and if you feel so inclined, please send us names of loved ones whom you would like for us to remember in the service. Feel free to click this link to add names of loved ones who have gone on before whom you would like us to remember.
Yours in Christ,