Feast of All Saints – Saints Who See
The first Christians called themselves saints. Baptism brought them into the realm of God’s holiness and divinity. Awareness of the divine life within them was primary and their lives were a journey of transformation. The same is true for all the baptised. Awareness is key. The candle given to us at baptism is a symbol of our life’s journey from darkness to light. St Paul reminded his converts at Ephesus: “You were darkness once but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of the light…” – Ephesians 5, 7-8.
“Christianity is, above all, a way of seeing. Everything else in Christian life flows from and circles around the transformation of vision. Christians see differently, and that is why their prayer, their worship, their action, their whole way of being in the world, has a distinctive accent and flavour. What unites figures as diverse as James Joyce, Caravaggio, John Milton, the architect of Chartres, Dorothy Day, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and the later Bob Dylan is a peculiar and distinctive take on things, a style, a way, which flows finally from Jesus of Nazareth’s take on life.” (1)
There are many people today who could be called ‘anonymous Christians’ (a phrase coined by the late Karl Rahner SJ), that is people who are not baptised but carry within them the divine imprint of baptism. The well-known and wise Rabbi Harold Kushner was on to something like this when he wrote, “Religion is not primarily a set of beliefs, a collection of prayers or a series of rituals. It is a way of seeing. It can’t change the facts about the world we live in, but it can change the way we see those facts, and that in itself can often make a difference.” (2)
Saints, then, are those who see and act on what they see. Somewhere in the fourth century Christianity became less spiritual and more materialistic. Some of the vision which inspired the lives of earlier Christians was lost. Materialism and politics crept in, externals came to predominate, and groups of Christians left cities given to materialistic values, and formed small intentional communities of monks in deserted areas around the Middle East. The best known and longest lasting of these communities followed a rule of life drawn up by St. Benedict.
The late Karl Rahner, one of the deepest Catholic thinkers of the last century when asked about the future of the church, predicted that it would be smaller, more spiritual and contemplative than that of the 19th and 20th centuries. People today are looking for authenticity and depth in the faith. A recitation of beliefs and the performance of ritual no longer satisfy the seeking heart.
On this feast of All Saints we celebrate all those, past and present, who see things differently – who saw and see through the eyes of Jesus, who are happy and blessed because they were graced with that mind which was also in Christ Jesus – Philippians 2, 5.
Fr. QQ – 10/29/2020
(1) Robert Barron, CATHOLICISM – 195
(2) Harold Kushner, WHO NEEDS GOD? – 84