I’m afraid I don’t appreciate falling back an hour so that we can spring forward later in order to move an hour of light from evening to morning. It confuses the body’s natural clock, and I’ve yet to find a good reason to practice daylight saving time today. I’m told it has to do with farmers needing earlier morning light, but the advantage only lasts a few weeks.
And yet, just as when I travel across time zones, the change brings to mind the strangeness of time itself, its movement, its speed usually governed by my own attention. Time speeds up when I am thinking; it slows down when I am not focused. But we all know this is an illusion, a fact that makes the whole process even more strange.
Aging speeds time too. We live a certain life-time, a set span as though we inhabit parentheses or brackets or quotation marks. Perhaps birth is a capital letter and death the period; we are the sentence and we hope we have many clauses and interesting verbs and fascinating, colorful nouns. One way or another we travel a road through time from birth to death, like flipping pages in a book, and the traveling seems to speed up as we move along. Those childhood years stretched out, especially those summer months with no school (at least in my childhood) and those long lazy days of reading and riding bikes into dusk and darkness and someone called you in.
And so it seemed appropriate that the Festival of All Saints landed this weekend, All Saints on Saturday with its extra hour (a sweet gift to be taken back later) and All Souls moved to tomorrow, Monday. All Saints and All Souls is a festival of time, I’ve often thought, celebrating the mystery of human life, and God within each of those human lives. We talk about the Communion of Saints, linking those from the past with those in the present with those to come, all in communion with us when we receive our Communion, communing together on a Sunday morning.
As our preacher explained, when we worship God we take part in the glory and worship of those in Heaven – the souls, saints, and angels, as described in the Revelation of St. John, the Epistle for All Saints Day:
I beheld… a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God with sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood around about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. (Rev. 7:2+)
In our earthly hour of liturgical worship, ritual choreographed like a dance incorporating all the earthly senses (hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, smelling), we worship outside of time with those before, those now, those to come. We also worship deep inside time, in its very heart, the kernel of created life, deep within God himself as he enters deep within us. It is a pinpoint moment all pulled together as the Host is placed on the tongue and we sip from the chalice.
Time is telescoped on a Sunday morning in a simple church, so that when we leave the sacred and re-enter the worldly rushing world around us, where time devours seconds on a dial or falls into the abyss of a digital screen, gone – when we re-enter our ordinary comings and goings – we bring that timeless telescopic moment with us. We carry that jeweled moment, and all the jeweled moments of worship, collected in each of us, recreating us to be who we truly are. We become further sculpted and more defined. We have been fed and enriched and changed each time we join this host of witnesses, each time we sing our songs of worship as one voice:For all the saints, who from their labors rest, Who thee….. by faith before the world confessed, Thy Name, O Jesus, be for ev – er blest, Al – le – lu – ia, al – le – lu – ia! (#126, 1940 Episcopal Hymnal)
Our preacher spoke of the tortures of the early saints, their long, drawn-out martyrdoms as they confessed the lordship of Jesus of Nazareth. We look around our world today and see similar Christian martyrdoms, but we feel safe on our own soil. So far. Would we deny our faith? We wonder on days like today, when we recall Tertullian’s “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” We are thankful for these saints, for where would we be today without them?
Time would be a dull thing, scattered and meaningless, with no end in sight and too many ends in sight. We would be devoured by the noise and rush of the world or simply our own silent pride. We would be blind to beauty, truth, goodness. We would not see God, and so we would not appreciate the life he has given us; life would be cheap.
And so, in a way, All Saints is a prelude to Thanksgiving for, while every Eucharist is a festival of thanksgiving, today is a day in which we give special thanks for that emerald moment of worship promised, that moment we join with the heavenly host in the worship of God with the great Communion of Saints.