By the Rev. Darren Miner
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In the Name of the Father, and of the ✠ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is All Saints’ Day, a “principal feast day” in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. And so, here we are, gathered together to commemorate all the saints. But what exactly do we mean my the word “saints”? In the early church, all baptized Christians were called saints. All were considered holy. All were considered set apart for God’s use. Only later did the term become limited to those who had lived lives of heroic sanctity and, most especially, those who had crowned their lives as martyrs to the faith. As a result of this change in connotation, the remembrance of the “unheroic” faithful was put off to the following day, the feast of All Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls’ Day. Frankly, I prefer the earlier usage. I like to think of this day as a day to remember all the faithful of ages past, whether or not they were particularly “heroic” in their faith.
But this feast day is not just about looking backward. This day is also a day of looking forward. The prayer book designates this feast as one of four baptismal feasts, at which we dedicate new saints to God through Holy Baptism and at which we may optionally renew our own status as saints by solemnly reaffirming our baptismal vows. Truly, this is a day to remember all the saints—past, present, and yet to come.
By the Rev. Darren Miner
Ascension Day, one of the seven principal feasts of the Episcopal Church, is next Thursday. But we’re allowed by the rubrics in the prayer book to transfer it to another weekday, and so we are gathered here today to keep that great feast.
Just to make sure that we’re all on the same page, let me define what is meant by “the Ascension.” In the end of Luke’s Gospel, and again in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us that, for 40 days after the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and spoke to them about the kingdom of God. On the 40th day, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus was taken up bodily into the sky and disappeared into a cloud before the very eyes of his apostles. That assumption of Christ’s resurrection body into the heavens is the Ascension.
Now, this story clearly has great visual appeal. And artists throughout the ages have depicted it a number of ways. One early medieval artist showed people devoutly kneeling on a hill with their hands joined together in prayer looking up toward a cloud. And from out of the cloud all you see are two feet sticking out! A later artist portrayed the full image of Jesus majestically floating up into the sky with his arms in the orans position, the position of the priest during the eucharistic prayer. More recently, Salvador Dalí depicted the Ascension from still a different perspective; in his painting, the viewer is looking up directly into the noonday sun and sees the soles of Jesus’ feet directly above him or her, surrounded by the sun’s rays.
Daniel G. C. Wu, devoted his ministry to serving Chinese immigrants in the San Francisco Bay area. A graduate of CDSP and ordained to the priesthood in 1912, he became the vicar at True Sunshine Chinese Mission (SF) and the Church of Our Savior (Oakland).
We give you thanks, loving God, for the ministry of Daniel Wu, priest and pioneer church planter among Asian-Americans, and for the stable worshiping communities he established, easing many immigrants’ passage into a confusing new world. By the power of your Holy Spirit, raise up other inspired leaders, that today’s newcomers may ﬁnd leaders from their diverse communities faithful to our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the same Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
O God the King of saints, you strengthened your servants Perpetua and Felicitas and their companions to make a good confession, staunchly resisting, for the cause of Christ, the claims of human affection, and encouraging one another in their time of trial: Grant that we who cherish their blessed memory may share their pure and steadfast faith, and win with them the palm of victory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Read the prison diary of a young woman martyred in Carthage in 202 or 203 CE. The beginning and ending are related by an editor/narrator; the central text contains the words of Perpetua herself.
Almighty God, you have enriched your Church with the singular learning and holiness of your servant Thomas Aquinas: Enlighten us more and more, we pray, by the disciplined thinking and teaching of Christian scholars, and deepen our devotion by the example of saintly lives; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
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O God, who by the preaching of your apostle Paul have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show ourselves thankful to you by following his holy teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen