Self-reflection on All Saint's Day
So, I'm back.
I've returned home, returned to work, re-entered "regular" life after eight days of grace upon grace upon grace. My heart has been overflowing with gratitude for days and days. It would be hard, and perhaps even boring, to try to sum up my time away, and so I won't, except to say that driving home yesterday, I was reminded of what it felt like to leave summer camp when I was a middle schooler. I was so very aware that I was not just leaving a place, but leaving a community forged almost outside of time in which I had been absolutely immersed while the rest of the world went on and on in some other time and place. I will be reflecting on the experience for a long time to come.
And how wonderful to return on All Saints' Day, the day we celebrate those heroes of the faith gone before who model for us virtue and holiness, the cardinal feast for my life as an Episcopalian (due to the fact that I spent most of it in the parish of All Saints' in Atlanta). I certainly met some living heroes of the faith in the last week....
My favorite All Saints' hymn to sing (as opposed to my favorite to "listen to" musically*) is "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God." I always choke up at the line "and I want to be one, too." Always. My former rector, Harry Pritchett, told us once that this is also his favorite All Saints' hymn, because when he was young, he thought that in the second verse the line went "one was a soldier and one was a something else and one was a fierce wild priest, and I want to be one, too."
I always carried that "fierce, wild priest" idea with me - not in the sense of the gun-toting wild-eyed preacher grandfather of Rev Ames (of Marilynn Robinson's novel Gilead) but the kind of priest who is passionate and intense and on fire because of love and the knowledge and experience of prodigal grace. The kind of priest who is not smothered or hemmed in by perceived constraints of tradition and self-imposed limits but who is fully alive, creative and free.
And so today, upon return from that place where I experienced grace upon grace, I sing a song not only of the saints gone before but also of those fierce, wild priests who follow the witness of those saints by living the holy life as only they can live it. Because I want to be one, too.
(*In case you're dying to know, my favorite-for-the-music All Saints' hymn is "By all your saints still striving" sung to the tune King's Lynn.)