The Hidden Gems
One of the components of The Episcopal Church that I love is our liturgical calendar. Yes, the church year is wonderful with the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Ascension and Pentecost! But what feeds me spiritually, intellectually, and emotionally are the hidden liturgical gems that most Episcopalians do not celebrate or even know exist. Yes, some people recognize and live into All Saints Day, Ascension Day, and Ash Wednesday which is wonderful. Our liturgical calendar though is so much richer than anything we can fully comprehend.
When I was in seminary we used Lesser Feasts and Fasts to commemorate the faithful. Several years ago this volume was renamed “Holy Women, Holy Men.” In 2015, a more inclusive version was published entitled “A Great Cloud of Witnesses.” This book is to be a companion to our Book of Common Prayer which contains the celebrations for those who have the word “Saint” before their name such as Mary and Joseph, John the Baptist, the apostles and evangelists, Paul, Mary Magdalene, Stephen and Michael.
The truth though, is that all God’s faithful embedded in “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” speak to the role of saints in our rich, historic tradition of Christianity, from its earliest days to the present. It is important to always be reminded of the women and men; throughout the generations of the church; who have been faithful witnesses to Christ in their own day and age. This is why I keep at the center of my prayer life the following:
O God, the King of saints, we praise and glorify your holy
Name for all your servants who have finished their course in
Your faith and fear: for the blessed Virgin Mary; for the holy
Patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs; and for all your
Other righteous servants, known to us and unknown; and we
Pray that, encouraged by their examples, aided by their prayers
And strengthened by their fellowship, we also may be partakers
Of the inheritance of the saints in light; through the merits of
Your son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
I believe that the saints of God from St. Peter to Jonathan Daniels, from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, encourage us on our journeys and give us light to see the often dark path ahead. In the introduction to “A Great Cloud of Witnesses” we find this powerful conclusion: “Seeing them in those around us, we may be better able to cultivate these virtues and forms of holiness in the life of the Church, through grace, as we strive to imitate Christ as well.”