Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lighting Candles

Today at church, we celebrated “All Saints Day.”  All Saints is a somber occasion where the family and friends of the recently departed light candles to celebrate and commemorate their lives.  Today I stood by the candles and handed the lighter to person after person, some of whom seemed matter of fact and many who seemed to be walking with the shadow of grief on their faces.  It is a heavy moment to look at the lit candles and see the passing of years, the persons now missing, the seats achingly vacant.

The last time I lit one of these candles was in 2007 for my Great Grandmother Marie Spainhower.  Today, though, I wished I could have lit one for Cliff.  Or maybe for myself.  But mostly for the life that died last November and the life that it has been replaced with.  That seemed worth mourning.

Lots of the talk on All Saints Day is about the losses that have been suffered, the legacy left behind and our own responsibility towards the dead, towards the living, towards our God.  We the living are the Saints yet-to-ascend who face life as it is and the life yet to come.  So it is not all somber remembrance, but also bolstering our collective courage to continue on despite loss, naming the blessedness of what we have had, trusting in a God who calls us along the difficult path that many times intersects with suffering and loss and eventually, resurrection.

And yet, despite the sacred moments of worship today and the ritual of candle light and sorrow, I had a decidedly secular mental intrusion this morning.


I heartily recommend this movie.  It’s got a lot of thought provoking moments and themes about government, about choice, about fear, and about liberty.  (Shout out to my dear friend Jetta who went with me to see it during college!)  It takes the story of Guy Fawkes (check out Wikipedia for more info) as a source of inspiration and riffs on the poem heard in the video about Guy Fawkes day (which is tomorrow).  “Remember, Remember” our hero intones, and that seems incredibly apt for the day.

Remember the dead - the heroic and the villainous   Remember the days - the joyful and the terrible.  Remember the history - for which we are culpable, in which we are victims.  Remember, Remember, Remember....

November is the month when we are usually in the business of Remembering – we recount that for which we are thankful ( at least, everyone on facebook is doing so), we dredge up old family recipes for Thanksgiving Dinner, we try to remember which family members don’t get along so we can avoid sitting them next to each other.  And we take note of empty seats and missing faces and lapses in conversation that reveal a hollow shape where a person used to be.

So I’ll avoid maudlin and selfish talk that seeks to place myself at the center of all sorrow and pain, as if I’m the only person who enters into the month of November with dread and nausea.  I’m not the only one who approaches the upcoming holidays with what they have lost in the forefront of their vision.  But for this month, I may be lighting candles more than usual.  Candles to remember what has passed.  Candles to celebrate what was good.  Candles to give me focus and courage.  Candles to invoke the presence of God and to remember that I serve Emmanuel – a God who is with me.  A God who remembers too.

1 comment:

Paul Rimmer said...

In the Catholic and Anglican context, candles have a very broad meaning and application.

If you are alright with it, I will light a candle for you.