“I believe in the communion of saints.”
Why do we have a half-moon shaped communion rail at St David’s? I have no idea why the past generations decided to choose such a meaningful design for our communion rail. Perhaps they set it up in such a way to allow for more communicants or, may be that in consideration of the small size of our sanctuary, they thought such design would allow for a better flow. Or just because that was the “trendy” design of the day. At any rate, I do not know.
But I would like to believe they did it for a purpose. There is an old tradition for half-moon shaped communion rails suggesting that while the congregation kneels before the altar to receive communion around the visible half circle, the circle is completed beyond time and space by the great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages worshiping around the throne of God.
The visible half circle is there to remind us that we are already part of the great multitude of the children of God who already are worshiping at the Throne. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are,” writes the apostle (1 John 3:1-3), and this is who we are. Not because anything we did or whatever we may wish to do, but because “He loved us first.”
And it is that heavenly multitude cheering us as we run the race that God has set before us (Hebrews 12:1-2) that we remember and honor today, the Feast of All Saints.
Who are the saints of God?
Of course, we all are the saints of God, beloved children of our Heavenly Father, spoken into existence before we were born in our mother’s womb. But what today we recall are the Heroes of the Faith, those who truly were Saints, and for whom God created a special place, a heavenly homeland.
They were women and men who had GOD writ large on their lives. They took God seriously, not for the sweet by and by, but for their own time and age.
They were people of the resurrection. They lived through the death of their dreams and opportunities. They persevered when their potential was buried by the circumstances, misunderstandings, and the plain envy and hatred of those who were challenged by their lives and their message.
What makes a saint a Saint?
If you read the stories of those women and men that we consider truly Saints, you will soon notice that they did not excelled in perfection but excelled in excellence. In other words, they were not those who achieved “perfection” in this world but those who refused to throw the towel and give in to anything that would detract them from their calling – and ours! – to grow into the likeness of Jesus Christ.
It is interesting to note that as far as we know from those who left writings or for those who left a living testimony, no one felt a particular calling to sainthood. Very few saints were recognized as true Saints while they were still living. Often, they left behind a rich treasure of writings that even after centuries still resonate in our souls inviting us into a deeper life in Christ.
Others impacted their generation leading the renewal of the Church being sometimes sidelined – or worse – for “rocking the boat.” Some paid with their lives for refusing to kneel before the altar of the god of the day. And then others paid dearly for speaking truth to power, fearlessly challenging kings, emperors, and political leaders not with the power of armies but in the power of the Spirit of God.
All of them “run the race that was set before them, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of their faith,” and acknowledging with their perseverance the cheering multitude encouraging them until the end.
Who can be a Saint?
A sage from long ago wrote about those who “left behind a name so that their praises might be told. For some there is no memory (…) But these were compassionate people whose righteous deeds haven’t been forgotten,” (The Book of Sirach or Ecclesiasticus, 44:8).
This is the good news for us. Even if we decay until there is no memory of us, any righteous act, even a glass of water for a parched soul, the “Little Things” that St David commended us to mind – shall not be forgotten.
Generosity of spirit, kindness, a peaceable disposition and the willingness to go the extra mile and beyond will be the reason to be remembered, here on our side of our church’s communion rail, or on the other side when we will be gathered around the celestial altar.
For, in a nutshell, what will transform us from saints into Saints is a firm commitment to believe that we have been created to be more than C average Christians, struggling to keep on keeping on – barely – always with the towel at the ready, praying for the bell to ring.
God says, “You are my child!” “And this is what we are,” writes St. John. And St Paul asks, “If God is for us, who can ever be against us? And since He did not spare even His own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?” You see, Saints are all those who dare to believe God.
And you know what? You too have God writ large in your life, for in Baptism you were marked as Christ’s own – zeroed in from Heaven! In Christ, we all are beloved children destined to join in the large cloud of witnesses. Look up to the stands – they are all cheering for you!
Most Holy Lamb, Jesus our Redeemer: It is by your loving sacrifice that we have become children of a Heavenly Father, our God. Inspire in us a powerful vision of the glory to come so that we, cheered by the great cloud of witness of ages past, may become true witness in word and deed of your kindness, generosity, and loving service now, in our time, the earthly side of the celestial communion rail.