It strikes me that the month of November is one in which we spend a lot of time remembering, especially in and around our worshipping lives in church.
The month begins with All Saints Day, the day that the church remembers and gives thanks for those heroes of the faith who have led others to become followers of Jesus throughout the many years that there have been since the Son of God walked the Earth and began spreading the good news of God and His desire to save our world.
The liturgy of Thanksgiving for the Holy Ones of God, which can be used on this day, expresses the deep and wide basis that there is to the Christian Church and especially highlights that the foundation of the Church, the thing it was built upon, was people. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah – Mary, Peter, Paul – Cuthbert, Benedict, Bede – the list could go on and on of those people who have been instrumental in helping the world to see that there is a God who loves them and wants nothing but love for them in their lives. And whilst they may not be there in the liturgy itself we can, I am sure, bring those names right up to date with people who have shown us what it means to live life in the way that Jesus surely wishes for us; we can remember those Saints who have loved us in our own lives, no matter how short they have been so far.
All Souls Day that follows is a similar chance to remember; this time those who have shared the faith with us but who have now died. And often it is an opportunity to remember those who we know personally who have passed away and are no longer with us. Naturally the pain of loss is felt when we remember those who were close to us who have died, however the hope is that we can find comfort in the hope of the eternal life that Jesus won for us. With this knowledge, we know that when Christ’s final victory comes and death is defeated, this will see us joined in happiness and joy, with those who have passed before us.
And we also have Remembrance Sunday, another day when we remember: a day when we remember those who have departed life through the pain and perils of war and conflict over the years. For me this service each year is all about remembering those who have fallen, not least for themselves, as they surely deserve such, but also because as the service makes clear, this remembrance of sacrifice and death will hopefully place the desire for peace in our hearts and minds. As the prayer during the Act of Remembrance itself so beautifully puts it, we call to mind the peace of God’s presence that those we remember have passed into, but we also call to mind the peace that can calm our fears and the peace and harmony among the nations that we all must surely desire in the light of such loss.
So why and what do we remember in November? We remember those whose lives are a sign of Christ’s presence in the world: we remember those who have gone, but the hope that through Christ we will see them again when He returns triumphant: we remember the need for peace and harmony in our world, and perhaps sadly how our world has and does fail so badly to produce this. But perhaps if we remember all of these things not just in November, but beyond, we may soon remember, as the Collect prayer for All Saints Day puts it, “the inexpressible joys” that God has prepared for all those who truly love Him – and surely, one another. Amen.