Monday, November 1, 2021

That your joy may be full. . .

All Saints Day is a much bigger feast than most think.  It is not simply a day to recall those who have gone before with the sign of faith.  On this day we celebrate the fullness of Christ -- the revelation of the Father in the gift of His Won, the Word made flesh, who embraced our flesh that we might be embraced by His divinity, and swelled with the joy that is full and eternal.  This is the glorious communion that we know here on earth sacramentally and this is the glorious communion that the saints know face to face.  It is this heavenly vision that All Saints presents to us as we recall those who die in the Lord and who now live in Him, awaiting with us the great reunion that is to come when our Lord comes in His glory to bring all things to our glorious consummation.

Tradition is one of the ways in which we acknowledge and participate in this communion.  Tradition does not pass on customs or clothing or odd antiquated terminology.  It does not bequeath the past but presents to the present and the future the living faith of the dead.  The apex of tradition is the Eucharist, the gift and blessing of the body and blood of Christ given and received by the faithful.  And in the glimmer of that moment in time, eternity is present.  The saints remain unseen but are there with us.  Therefore with angels and archangels, with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Thy glorious name, evermore praising Thee and saying: Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of Sabaoth.

How sad it is that we presume tradition is simple custom, the way we have always done things.  How sad it is that because we see those only those who here, we presume that the Sacrament is all about us and all about this moment in time.  The heart of tradition is the Eucharist -- as St. Paul so solemnly put it: For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Tradition is not handed down but passed on, from the living to the living.  From the saints who lived and died and now live in this faith to the saints who live by it still and from them to the saints yet to be made in baptismal water.  Tradition is not about dragging some odd bit of the past into the present but about the life that does not end, enjoyed in part here and now and known in full in the great consummation.  Our joy does not rest in the moment but in the future and yet, by the miracle of God's grace, that forever is glimpsed in the present, anticipated in the moment, and enjoyed in the promise given but not fulfilled completely until the glorious bodies replace the frail and the life is no longer dogged by the shadow of death and the veil is lifted so that we might behold the mystery face to face.

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have communion (koinonia) with us; and truly our communion (koinonia) is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. (1 John 1:1–4)

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