As the liturgical year begins to draw to a close we have two important feasts which seem to sum up everything we need to keep in mind as people of faith and members of the Body of Christ. The two feasts are All Saints Day and All Souls Day, celebrated consecutively on November 1 and 2. That we celebrate all that is holy and potentially holy in people for two days reveals that this is what the Christian life is about. We are made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore we were made to reflect God’s holiness. Those who we laud as Saints are the ones who have taken the gifts they were given and filtered them all through love, becoming like Jesus. They became holy because they so loved God they could not do anything but respond in total love, offering their entire lives to heroic virtue as a way of saying “I love you” back to God. As we celebrate the Holy Souls we are reminded that we are all in the process of reflecting God’s love. While they may not have achieved the level of sanctity of the Saints, they teach us that the entire Body of Christ is connected through faith, hope, and love forever. We are One Body.
Holiness is in the fabric of all that God has made. Because God made everything, and God is the ultimate in holiness, everything has the imprint of His holiness upon it. That is to say, everything that God has made reflects His beauty and holiness. To look up in the night sky, if one can find a place away from light on a cloudless night, is to see into the heavens. The ever expanding universe is a marvel of God’s creation. One does not have to understand it to know that God has made this incredible reality. The beauty of the mathematics and physics behind it are languages which describe the holiness and love of God for all that He has made. The earth and all of its varied beauty from the lush to the arid, and the creatures of every sort that roam this earth: all of it is a reflection of the beauty and holiness of God. Another way to put this is to say everything that is made is sacred. It is sacred to Him and therefore it is meant to be sacred to us.
It is no wonder that the first reading from All Souls Day says of the holy ones: “In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble.” All the just ones that are deceased are in the hands of God and are in peace. (Wisdom 3:1-9) They sparkle because they lived in love and encourage us to live in the same love. They are at peace and teach us that we have nothing to fear in death. If we are baptized as members of the Body of Christ, we can never be separated from the love of God. We can never lose the breath of His holiness that is inside our soul, that which urges us to respond to Love in love. It is as if the love He ‘builds into’ us is reaching out to be reunited with the perfect Love from whence it came.
If one picks up a book on the lives of the Saints, one will almost immediately see that the Saints were as varied as flakes of snow. That is what is so glorious about the Body of Christ: we are all so very different! Every person no matter what ethnicity, gender, ability, educational background, race, or culture has the same potential to become holy. There are Saints of every sort: black, white, brown; women and men; married, single, religious, cleric; illiterate, with a PhD, or somewhere in between; able bodied or disabled; kings, queens, paupers; from many different nations. All who we celebrate as Saints are ordinary people who took what God gave them, even if it was tinged with great suffering, and found it to be a pathway to holiness, a way home to God. But along the way, they shared what they had been given, in order to take people home to God with them.
©Michele L. Catanese
The first image is called The Souls of the Just Are in the Hands of God. It is the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols. If you are interested in a copy you can find it at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/the-souls-of-the-just-are-in-the-hands-of-god-172-william-hart-mcnichols.html
The photo of the cosmos is from the Hubble Telescope.
The next icon is the work of Fr. William Hart McNichols called St. Damien of Moloka'i and is found at http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-damien-of-molokai-235-william-hart-mcnichols.html
* You can also find icons of many of the saints I mentioned, such as St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, many different icons of St. Francis of Assisi, including one of the latest, part of a beautiful work called Viriditas, http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/featured/st-francis-viriditas-william-hart-mcnichols.html
I recommend going to Fr. Bill's Fine Art America page and simply scrolling through all the Galleries of all the Saints and holy ones to find one or more which you like. I would have posted every saint on the page because I love them all...but why should I have all the fun? I will let you do that. (Remember, I get no remuneration from extolling his work. I simply love to share the beauty that is there.)
Click here for the link: http://frbillmcnichols-sacredimages.com/index.html
The last two photos are mine. The first is of the sky taken from Cloudcroft, New Mexico and the last was taken in the Cathedral of Saint Francis in Sante Fe, New Mexico.