Monday, November 6, 2017

Homily by Jeni Marcus ARCWP, "The Communion of Saints"

At the invitation of  Priest in Charge, Rev. Steve Domienik  of Nativity Episcopal Church, ARCWP, Deacon Rev. Karen Kerrigan and I were co celebrants with him, and Nativity Deacon, Carolyn Johnson in their annual subject festive All Saints liturgy. Rev. Steve also invited me to be the Guest Homilist. As an introduction to my sermon I gave I gave a quick acapella vocal rendition of 'Oh When the Saints Go Marching "  then delivered an eleven minute extemporaneous sermon based on the exegesis of the All Saints Liturgy Readings my attached notes, previous knowledge and research of the pagan Druid and Celtic history of Halloween and "Samhain," and  Church history of The Feast of All Saints. 

The Communion of Saints
On these first days of November, we celebrate two feasts All Saints and All Souls: the communion of saints. All Saints’ Day marks the transition from the earlier part of the post-Pentecost season, with its emphasis on growth in grace, to the last Sundays of the Church year, when the emphasis shifts to the “last things,” the final consummation of history. The Eschatological Moment and Parousia: Christ’s Second Coming .You might say the liturgical year is like the seasons from spring, summer, fall & winter.
Originally the Feast was a commemoration of early unknown martyrs who could not be, included by name on the day of their martyrdom. As such, they were not, officially “canonized,” as we know the term  but may have  very well qualified if anything was  actually known about them.
Yet, the New Testament calls all baptized Christians “saints,” hagioi, holy ones Paul can call them “saints” (1 Corinthians 1:2; the Greek means “called as saints,” not just “called to be saints . Over time there   the term “saint” evolved to its present day understanding that it should to be reserved for those who die in God’s state of grace.
In the light of this, All Saints’ Day could be interpreted as a commemoration of all the faithful departed. But the Church has traditionally separated this wider commemoration   from All Souls Day.  It has drawn a distinction between those  she recognizes as dying in God’s state of grace. and those  it finds more fitting to praying  that God have mercy on them on “that day” of Reckoning (see 2 Timothy 1:18).
Given the  above , the Church has   three “roles or states of being ”: Pilgrimage, Purification, and Glory. Since, there   are roughly two billion baptized Christians currently in thw world today alive on planet Earth they are  all in the state of Pilgrimage. On the other hand, those who have died in a  God’s  grace are either in the state of Glory  (united fully with God in heaven) or are moving through a process of Purification (continuing their pilgrimage, in a sense) toward the state of glory .That state of Purification gave rise to the theological doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences which to mine mind is questionable at best much like the discredited concept of Limbo where unbaptized infants were sent by God if they died. In sum, All Saints’ Day could be interpreted as a commemoration of All the faithful departed.
Finally, The communion of saints doctrine establishes the connection between the living and the dead through our common Baptism and Eucharist,. So our prayers of petition and reparation, transcend the apparent barrier of death moving both ways, from the living to the (biologically) deceased and from them to us. The doctrine infers that any good or bad done by one part of the community that is the body of Christ impacts on the rest of that body.

A few comments about the first reading from The Book of Revelation It was written about 96,
AD by John the Seer not John the Disciple of the historical Jesus .  It is  apocalyptic literature, and  was written to encourage the early Christians  in a time of persecution of the Church in Asia Minor by the Emperor Domitian. It predicts that many Christians will die a martyr’s death. John assures the Christian community that this is a prelude of the Eschatological End Time when God will vindicate all God’s martyrs. So this it is not necessarily a description of heaven as some ministers of the gospel would have you believe.
In this reading John describes a glorious state of being that awaits the martyrs by using symbolic language of white robes, palms, etc., and pictures them as singing the song of triumph .That song was probably sung in the Church  (as a paschal hymn), “Salvation belongs to our God ... Amen! Blessing and glory ...!”

The writer mistakenly thought that his present crisis was the final one just before the End of Time. But that is common literary method found in all apocalyptic writing. Each succeeding crisis in the Church’s history confronts us with the eternal issues of life and death.

There is the timeless struggle between good and evil in which, through the victory of Christ, his death and resurrection assures the faithful they too shall be vindicated and glorified.

On this plane of existence, the Church is an anticipation of the Kindom of heaven and corresponding  with this reading in Revelation ,  she, too, is a pluralistic fellowship consisting of “people from every nation, race, tribe[JM1] [JM2] [JM3] [JM4]  and language.” As appoint of information  ,the 144,000  marked with the seal is symbolic and not to be taken literally .It represents countless numbers of holy people before the heavenly throne  .The number 12 is a scared number in  Jewish tradition and that number is multiplied by the 12 tribes of Israel in the Old Testament ,ergo the number ,144,000
Today’s gospel is from Matthew and is known as the Sermon on the Mount. There is another version from Luke which is the Sermon on the Plain. Matthew’s uses a mountain setting to teach the new law, in contrast to the old law that was given to Moses on Mount Sinai, because Mathew views Jesus as the second Moses, The mountain settings  are symbolic as a way to connect with a theophany of God. In essence, Mathew depicts Jesus as the New Law Giver. We commonly refer these new laws as the Beatitudes. They also explicate Christ’s Great Commandments of Love and are a Blueprint for Sainthood .They are the essence of becoming Christ like. If there is any Christian theology you may learn in your life these are the only one that really matter .The rest are mere window dressing or icing on the cake.

The beatitudes were addressed to Jesus’s disciples, The disciples were the ones who have left everything to follow Jesus. They are the poor—in spirit, and are spiritually the have-nots, who have no righteousness of their own. As such, they hunger and thirst for (God’s) righteousness.

Each of the beatitudes falls into two parts: The first part describes the present humiliating status experienced by the disciples. While the second the glory yet to come in the Kindom. The second group of beatitudes is more activist. It is the merciful, the pure in heart, and the peacemakers who are pronounced blessed.

We are called to combine both the passive and active parts of the Beatitudes for a true relationship with God .By so doing , we are already blessed on this plane of existence and promised future participation in the Kindom of God.

In sum, All Saints’ Day celebrates  those persons who most perfectly manifested a  Christ-like character described in the first part of the beatitudes, and who therefore now enjoy the promises in the second part: Theirs is the kingdom of heaven; they are now comforted; they have inherited the “land,” ha-aretz, the promised land of the kingdom of God; they are filled with the delights of the messianic banquet; they have obtained mercy; they have achieved the full potentialities of divine integration.

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