Thursday, November 1, 2012

I detest the differentiation of All Saints and All Souls --how dare we

All Saints....

The clouds are thick and low here today --I guess it would be fog. It's 35F too --so, it's thick really cold low clouds. We paid a guy who came asking for a job --he picked up all the trash in the yard for us, and cleaned out our rain gutters on the roof. This morning --despite the 30mph winds last night that brought more trash into the yard, he is a saint in my book --going up on the roof like that, so I don't have to.

And I don't like --as a matter of fact I detest the differentiation between All Saints and All Souls in the calendar. How dare we discriminate between good, better, best. In all honesty, with the story of the widow's mite --we can't, we shouldn't. With the last being first and the first being last --we can't, we shouldn't. The nameless and forgotten who gave all and are only remembered fleetingly in the prayers on All Souls are more of an example for me than those with weighty visions and roofs over their heads.

Just sayin'.

And, I am of a mind to say that I don't give one pahooty about whether or not Halloween has roots in a pagan holiday or whether it is a Christian holiday or what. If we are painfully honest about anything we do in liturgy --including sharing bread and wine --it's ALL based in another Tradition.... But, we, as Christians, can open our eyes and see the Presence of Christ and a vision of the Kingdom anywhere, any time, any how. In any thing or event or whatever.

Perhaps that can be seen as religious imperialism... but I certainly don't mean it that way. I know it can be used that way, and so it is a very narrow, dangerous road --not to be walked alone....

That beg/borrow/steal is a huge cultural clash here. Native Traditionalists have forbidden any wacicus from participating in any ceremony because then the ceremony is taken and used in ways unintended. I understand that --and support them in that decision, as difficult as it may be. And, Native Christians here have been taught in decades past that any thing "Indian" is NOT Christian --and therefor drums or sage or eagle feathers or Lakota songs and the like are not allowed in church. There are hints of change... but it's going to be slow. And the graves of faithful Christians are marked with crosses and Four Direction Circles with wooden feathers (icons of eagle feathers, I guess) hanging every which way.... overlapping cultures and expressions of religious mannerisms among the dead is far more acceptable.

I, myself, am careful not to use any cultural or Traditional Lakota ways. Now is not the time for any old white lady to even think about it.... But if someone requests them, say at a funeral, I do my utmost to make them welcome. I mean, it is God's house, after all....

But the argument about what is or isn't Christian, what is or isn't holy, what is or isn't cultural is very present here.

All I can say is that from where I sit, the Lakota Traditions are not in conflict with Christianity --they are definitely NOT the same, but they are not in conflict.... and perhaps, one day....

There is much I see here that would be healthy for the main-stream church to adopt... and perhaps, one day....

In the meantime, we live in to the tension. And I am very comfortable with Grace. And don't give one pahooty --or, well, a correction in my own thoughts --maybe, in a more feminist fashion, we should give credit where credit is due, and find a theological statement about cultural borrowing and seeing Christ in all, through all, by all.... and just get over it. Because there is nothing classically full-blood Christian.

Except, perhaps, to say that sin is forgiven even before you ask, and redemption and grace are given even before one is aware....

--but in a time when sin is not spoken of or even acknowledged as such, how do we begin?

I am reminded --We are still watching Korean dramas on the computer (because we have no cable for tv --too expensive) --and the cultural differences are marvelous. One of the things that I have been pondering is the readiness and the ease with which the 'good guys' kneel and say, 'please forgive me. It's all my fault' whether it is all their fault or not.... You can tell they are 'good guys' when they do this because the 'bad guys' always try to make up excuses or explain what went wrong. It's been interesting... and I have wondered how the acknowledgment of 'something gone wrong' would play out in our National life --or at least in the Church....

--but, with law suits and legal stuff and personnel stuff, we can't really confess that things have gone wrong and take the burden of it.... --even though that is Gospel.


At prayer this morning (Luke 1:78-79)
To give his people knowledge of salvation *
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God *
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, *
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

and.... (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

We Borrow. We Beg. We Steal. We use anything and everything to get to the point: God has pitched a tent among us, and loves us, and delights in us... and our sins are forgiven, thrown as far away from us as east is to west.

And thank you God for all those who have gone before us. May they pray for us. Each in their own way. Each to your glory.

Because, you Father, Creator, Wakan Takan (Holy Mystery), Tankasila (Grandfather) --you are our source and our end, no matter the expressions or temper of our faith.

Huh --looky there... the throne is empty (look at that nifty shelf! what's that about?) --and Joel says that is Wisdom or maybe the Church right above Jesus.... I think that must be Mary and Joseph around Jesus's shoulders, and Mary Magdalene in red by the throne... I can't read who it is that holds all the souls in the hanky... some of the saints are near naked... and I like it that Jesus sits on the rainbow.... the sun, the moon, the stars in their courses.... wish I could read what's at the bottom center left of the icon...

Image from here. The blog is not intended for the likes of me... but for confessional Anglican remnants in the Episcopal Church, and ACNA and CANA and all them types.... Oh well. All in God's good time....

--can't help but say it --Jesus almost looks pregnant, what with that round little belly....

Ahhhhhh.... see... I'm bad. Sorry.

The temperature is dropping outside... nothing worse than frozen fog....

--and this afternoon, I have to go take pictures of a house the church owns... and it's been really really trashed by the former residents.... It's going to have to be stripped down to the studs and remade.... How am I going to deal with that in a Gospel fashion? (Do I hold the former residents liable --like they could do anything anyway.... Is it righteous just to forgive and forget? How do I get the house back in livable condition? I had to evict them... and now this... I hate mess like this....) Hey God, it's margaret --Gospel vision please.


Renee said...

The little shelf: I think it's a footstool. Like the one being used by the guy in the lower right corner--the one with the basket full of heads. (ok, now what's THAT about?)

Holly said...

Iakos? Jacob? James? Can't come up with reason for the heads in a hankie, though. Is that Abraham on the left?

Great illustration?

Holly said...

Oh, and I think the "nifty shelf" is a footrest like the ones the two figures at the bottom have their feet on.

Raven~ said...

This piece is so poignant ... I sent you an FB message about the icon. (The dude with the souls in a napkin is Jacob and his sons)

Thank you for your careful respect of culture, and tradition, and for your honest acknowledgement of the many streams that flow together to produce Christian art, symbolism, sacrament.

Have you discovered Jim Palmer's blog? YOu two could have some conversations!

rick allen said...

As I comment little, I should say that I enjoy following your blog, and learn much from it and therefore my occasional intrusions should not, I hope, imply a continuously critical attitude.

But I was struck by this:

"I don't like --as a matter of fact I detest the differentiation between All Saints and All Souls in the calendar. How dare we discriminate between good, better, best."

...because I am seriously puzzled about how the difference in the days implies such a differentiation.

For me the difference it simple. There are some whose prayers I need, and would benefit from, and there are others who need my prayers, and would benefit from them. The current allignment of who is where and needs what is rather arbitrary in the scheme of eternity, but nevertheless I don't see it as making any sort of improper discrimination in celebrating both our need for prayer from some and our obligation to extend our prayer to others. That, to me, says nothing about any sort of universal sorting out of ranks and places.

Not a big deal, I hope.

JCF said...

I imagine that ACTUAL saints only want to be commemorated (if at all) on All Soul's.

JCF said...

There are some whose prayers I need, and would benefit from, and there are others who need my prayers, and would benefit from them.

Why not pray "for all in need", and keep your "pray for me" as wide as possible?

I don't mind calling some specific historical personages, now gone on to glory, as "St Francis", et al.

But I think the RC dichotomy, that some are "lifted to the altar" (w/ a massive fabric hanging from the balcony of Big Pete's!) and to be specifically invoked ("Ora Pro Nobis"), and others, unspecified, are stuck in Purgatory ("Pray for the Holy Souls, the Church Suffering!") is rather, well, dichotomous.

My mother was very much NOT a saint...but I ask for her prayers, no less than from the BVM. And I have no idea whether the BVM has no need of my prayers for her, if she's in need, she gets 'em!

it's margaret said...

The chair/shelf/footstool stuff is still really fascinating --cuz I have never seen that --and, remember, I was a museum curator and have, literally, studied chairs --never ever seen that... I LOVE it!

I really need to have a go at identifying all the folks in the icon --yes, it does appear to be Jacob...

Rick --thank you for commenting. And, no, your comments are not 'attitudinal'... on that note, however, I don't get that you don't get that having one day for the big wigs and another day for everyone else IS discriminatory. And, in light of the Gospel, how can we do that? Somehow, I feel that even the big wigs would object, especially the likes of Francis.

Leocadia said...

An absolutely BEAUTIFUL blog post. Thank You. So much to think about. I love that you say what you think. Jesus pregnant. LOL Pregnant with TRUTH.

susankay said...

I imagine that I need the prayers of all if I need the prayers of any. And I would imagine that "saints" feel that way too.

Jerry said...

I take seriously, and it's obvious you do also, the very first words John writes -- "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word, and without the Word nothing came into being." It's all of God, for God, by God. -- nothing's off limits, nothing's "pagan," nothing's "infidel." Nothing ...

it's margaret said...

Yes Jerry --and then we must tread very carefully, for the sake of all.

rick allen said...

"others, unspecified, are stuck in Purgatory"

But no one is "stuck in Purgatory." It is something one goes through, that almost all of us will go through (only, of course, if one adheres to those beliefs which are the foundation of the All Souls observance).

And most such prayers are not at all unspecified, but are, at this time of year, focused on those dear to us whom we have lost.

By the same token, the focus of All Saints is not the canonized saints, the "big wigs," but the vast "clouds of witness" far beyond the capacity of the Church on earth to specifically commemorate.

We are not talking about classes but a process. The All Saints/All Souls sequence rests on the assertion that we here on earth will in all likelihood join those undergoing purgation, and thereafter enter into the company of the blessed saints. In the mean time we are joined by the practice of intercessory prayer.

Nij said...

I love the different interpretation of the art work! How different people see so differently.

When I was working in an inner city parish with mostly Asian and Hispanic kids I gave them (teens) an assignment: They each had a pumpkin and were to use paints and brushes provided to paint the likeness (to them "likeness", ahem!)of the saint of their choice OR the likeness of someone living that they would consider on the way to being a saint. They would have to explain their saint/artwork to the class. (hoping for a little research here)
To my complete astonishment, the Hispanic and (2) white kids painted on eyes, nose, beards, etc. But the Asian kids created facial images by painting around what would have been eyes, nose, etc. So all of their eyes, noses etc were pumpkin skin (orange) and flesh was painted pink and hair was dark brown or black. It certainly was an eye opener for me re: how different folks see things differently. Is it any wonder we get into hassles due to differing perceptions?
Anyway, blessed are saints - past, present & yet to come!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

This friend speaks my mind.

JCF said...

By "unspecified", Rick, I mean those (deceased) persons that are alleged to be/have been there (i.e., it's not kosher to say, for example, "Joe Paterno is in Purgatory"). And by "stuck", I mean "placed into" (I wasn't implying that it was an eternal location; I know that, by RC dogma, it's the one after-death state that is NOT eternal!)

I'm actually not unsympathetic to the concept of Purgatory (it's my favorite part of the Divine Comedy trio!). I'm only reacting, per Margaret's post, to the divisive division of Heaven/Purgatory, Saints-in-Light/Suffering Souls. I don't think the Saints would stand for such a division (and that's only because such resistance is implanted in the Imago Dei by, well, You Know!)

it's margaret said...

There is no purgatory. IF there is, it is the agony of death itself. Otherwise... jeeeez.... all the talk of Grace and Forgiveness is empty air, which makes Jesus a liar. And THAT, I don't believe. I will stake my life on what he did, said, what he promised.

So, there is no purgatory.

And all saints --yes, the Cloud of Witnesses --and in that Cloud, there is no differentiation. So, if not there, why here?

--Yes, it is good to have folks to look to that make one go --OH! That's what it looks like! And what is wrong with remembering them next to mom and dad and aunti and best friend? --actually, I obviously believe that is the way it SHOULD be!

Daisy said...

I haven't thought about purgatory in decades! I tend to combine the two feasts - All Saints and All Souls, as a remembering that we are all interconnected...saints living and dead, and all of creation. All is One.

Enjoy your blog. Thank you
Barbara and Daisy

rick allen said...

"There is no purgatory."

In which case, I have apparently rushed in where angels fear to tread.

My assumption was that celebration of All Souls presupposes belief in purgatory, just as celebration of Easter the resurrection.

Admitting I do not know what celebrating All Souls means without the Catholic predicate, I can at least understand your disdain for making certain distinctions between the celebrated dead and the obscure. But that was why I posted--it never occurred to me that that distinction was implicated in the two celebrations in the first place.

So--gulp--never mind.

it's margaret said...

rick --don't go away that easily!

The celebration of All Souls presupposes belief in purgatory?

--please explain....

You mean... we remember all those gone before us in faith on All Souls because they are stuck in purgatory???

from wiki:

The Anglican Communion, as well as many Continuing Anglican churches, reject the doctrine of purgatory, with the exception of some Anglo-Catholics.[73] Article XXII of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion states that "The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory…is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God."

The best article I have ever read on the topic of purgatory was written by a Dominican who stated that IF there is a purgatory, it is in dying --hence what I said before. I will try to find the source again.

But, if purgatory is indeed a 'cleansing' after death --will we ever be good enough for heaven??? --or is there something else through which we must pay for our sins? --is not the sacrifice of Our Lord atonement enough?

rick allen said...

Hi, Margaret. I have to admit I'm reluctant to get into your questions because they really go the heart of the Protestant/Catholic divide, and I really have no desire to go into that kind of discussion. There are a thousand books out there that go into it better than I could, pro or con.

Because, yes, in fact, Protestants have always felt that the Catholic approach was an affront to the sufficiency of the atonement, and Catholics have always felt that Protestant doctrine fails to acknowledge the long way each individual has to go to get to holiness, and the genuineness of our freedom to say no even to God.