“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 11:1
I have been told that Halloween is every Candler student’s favorite pagan holiday. Now, there are a few comments that could be made about this. (For instance, only at Candler do people tend to distinguish between pagan and religious holidays). But that conversation will have to be another blog post, because in all honesty, I’ve never cared much for Halloween. I mean, I appreciate it, but mostly, it is has served only to signify that Christmas is less than two months away. (Though I did just learn that if you go to Chipotle dressed like a burrito, they give you a free burrito.)
But Halloween falls on a Sunday this year, which means many churches will simultaneously be celebrating All Saints Day. This holiday, which is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic tradition, serves as a day to remember those saints who have gone before us in this Christian journey, to remember those Christians who have served as an example and a guide to us in our own struggles. In the Catholic tradition, this function mainly to celebrate the literal saints, but in Protestant circles, it has been broadened to include all believers.
Now, this is a holiday I can get on board with, even if doesn’t get me a free burrito. The esteemed Dr. Ellison teaches in his pastoral care classes that every person has a community of saints who helped get them where they are today. People who prayed and worked and dreamed so that we can be where we are right now.
They are our very own cloud of witnesses, and we should remember them.
It’s easy to overlook them, I think, especially in a society where independence is so valued and the mindset is that if you want something you have to get it yourself. Christianity tells us otherwise. We are not supposed to do it on our own, and in fact, we can’t. Some of our community we know. It’s our parents and our grandparents, our mentors and our pastors, but some of them we don’t. For instance, the mere fact that I’m at a seminary right now means that women who I won’t ever know worked to earn me that right.
I often study in the Pitts Theological Library, which at one time served as the entire theology school. The main area is where the old chapel used to be, and when I study in there, I can’t help but be drawn into the community there that’s greater than myself and the class of 2013. It is a holy place. People have been praying, worshipping and studying here for a long time. The questions that I am wrestling through have been wrestled through many times there. But they persevered. And their perseverance gives me hope, and thus I can run the race set out before me.
How did you remember your saints, both known and unknown, this year?