Thursday, August 20, 2009

on the communion of saints

let me start by saying that i'm not known as the 'touchy-feely' type. ask my friends, or my brother ... any of them.
but this morning, doing my little daily facebook inspection tour before getting on with my otherwise meaningless work, i noticed a message in my inbox. i don't get much of these. it was from an old friend, a person i had not seen in - oh dear - 20 years. i was happy, smiling (even my co-worker was wondering if i'd won the lottery or somethin'), almost ready to hug someone. I snapped out of it quickly, don't worry.

all morning i kept on thinking of the people i've known, here, there, in france, in california, in boston, in england, in germany, when i was young and foolish and now that i am old(er) and grumpy.
I thought of all the people who have helped me along the way, financially, emotionally, spiritually.
I thought of the people i have loved, the ones i have hated, the ones i have forgiven, the ones i have lost.
i thought of the ones i have hurt, dismissed, damaged. and the ones i have cherished, cared for, helped out.

for me, all these people, the good, the bad and the ugly, stand as a communion of saints on the altar of my psyche, a deep and rich reservoir of lessons learned, of tears shed or joys shared.
and this wealth, this depth of feelings and experiences, guides me every day, prevents me from making the same mistakes over again, and encourages when doubt overtakes my soul.

when i was younger, i could not understand that phrase in the new testament ... the communion of saints. yes, of course, all the saints of the early church. but that wasn't concrete enough.

now however, i am beginning to understand that it is the sum total of all those who touch us, in one way or another, and who shape our being so that we may fulfill our potential as children of god.
the communion of saints is not just the people we love - that would be too easy. it is also, and perhaps more importantly, those with whom we struggle.
the communion of saints is not just those who have left us, who have passed on, who have gone. it is also those with whom we live here and now.
the communion of saints is not just the 'good' people who have nurtured and taught us. it is also the bad influences, the ones who got us in trouble, the ones who made us do idiotic things, the ones who tore us away from our families and friends.
it is also the ones who don't think or act or look like us, who don't believe like us, who don't pray or vote like us, the ones who challenge us, who bother us, who disgust us.

yes, the communion of saints is the sum total of all those who touch us. and i also am a part of it.