November 1 is All Saints Day. It’s kind of a catch-all day for all of the saints who couldn’t have name days of their own throughout the year. In one regard, it’s a cheap “and everyone else we might have forgotten but we still think are pretty awesome” sentiment that a band might include in an album’s liner notes. On the other hand, it reminds us that, as the writer of Hebrews put it, we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1).
So many saints have gone before us that we simply can’t count their numbers. We are indeed surrounded by a great cloud of them.
I find this truly comforting.
My faith is not new or unique. Sure, it is expressed uniquely in me, since I am no carbon copy of those who have gone before. But my faith doesn’t rest on some great depth of spirituality within me, some greatness of heart that sets me apart from the masses.
I am uniquely loved by our Lord, but I know that I am no sublime soul. And that’s OK. I don’t need to be. My faith doesn’t rest on my spiritual exploits or moral excellence. It participates in something much larger than me.
And not only am I surrounded by this great cloud, but ones I love participate in it as well. There are faces in the crowd that I know well and have loved dearly, including my sister Joy and that super hero Lincoln. And there are faces I know only from photos and yet have loved for their influence on my life from C.S. Lewis to the grandfather I was named after but never met.
All Saints Day reminds me of them and prepares a place for me among them when I too pass through the veil of death. Perhaps that veil is no thinner today than it normally is on other days, but it seems so to me.
When I first heard that verse about the great cloud of witnesses referred to, I was a sophomore in high school and my imagination took off with it.
I imagined this great cloud as a great crowd, filling some vast sports stadium. And every single one of them was cheering me on. The saints had my back.
I still love that image.
There are no boos and hisses when I stumble and fumble. Only concern. Only a yearning by the whole crowd to reach out and put me back on my feet, even if they can’t. And there are whooping hollers and simple smiles when I excel and even when I do just OK, urging me on.
Thank you, dear saints, for living faithfully, showing me what it’s like and supporting me as I and others run the race set before us.