“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
As I reflect on All Saints Sunday, I am reminded why this is one of my favorite Sundays in the liturgical year. I recognize the gravity of such a Sunday, especially for those who have lost loved ones and friends this past year. For some, this Sunday may bring about great sadness. For others, relief that there is a space provided for remembrance and grief. And for many, gratitude for the great Christian witnesses that have shaped our lives and challenge us all to reflect upon our Christian walk.
Growing up, I always considered the loss of a loved one as a permanent separation, and therefore grounds for complete devastation and concern for eternal salvation. There were two worlds – this one, our present reality, and the next one – heaven. There wasn’t any possibility of crossover between the two. Therefore, the only way to completely heal the aching hole and the emptiness inside the heart, was to believe in Jesus and maintain certainty of your salvation.
As I have grown chronologically and spiritually, I have come to embrace the reality of sainthood and the constant connection of our souls to God and one another. Although there is most definitely a difference between our reality and a heavenly reality, the space between the realms is thin. How do I know this to be true? I have experienced powerful moments of presence with saints. I have had experiences that I cannot fully explain – assurances of loved ones’ presence that prove to me that the chasm isn’t as wide as we may think.
Why is it what we, as humans, feel most comfortable with absolutes? Once one has passed on and their physical presence is no longer with us, why must that mean their entire being is gone as well? Why do souls need to be either here or there? Can’t they be in both realms? Here AND there? Just as we are able to experience moments with the Divine, why couldn’t we also experience moments with the communion of saints whom we believe to be in heaven dwelling with God for all of eternity? Why do we attempt to make eternity seem smaller and farther away?
John Wesley enjoyed and celebrated All Saints Day. In a journal entry from November 1, 1767, Wesley calls it “a festival I truly love.” On the same day in 1788, he writes, “I always find this a comfortable day.”