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Thursday, November 3, 2016
For Magdalene we praise you, steadfast at cross and tomb.
Your “Mary!” in the garden dispelled her tears and gloom.
Apostle to the apostles, she ran to spread the word.
Send us to shout the good news that we have seen the Lord!
We pray for saints we know not, for saints still yet to be,
for grace to bear true witness and serve you faithfully,
till all the ransomed number who stand before the throne
ascribe all power and glory and praise to God alone.
Horatio Bolton Nelson’s “By All Your Saints Still Striving” (tune: King’s Lynn)
from Glory to God: The Presbyterian Hymnal
I remember the mental snap I experienced when I finally began to understand that eternity didn’t refer to “forever and ever” (i.e., time that just goes on and on and on), but to a state “outside of time.” Trying to intellectually wiggle out of the constraints imposed by living in time—the only way we humans can really be in the world—is pretty hard.
Yet my favorite line of this hymn invites me to do just that. “We pray for saints we know not, for saints still yet to be.” My contemplation of the communion of saints tends to focus either on a litany of figures from salvation history such as this hymn presents, or on an internal slide show of people I have loved and learned from who now live in the fullness of the Kingdom. On good days I see the “great cloud of witnesses” all around me now, women and men still daily striving to “bear true witness and serve God faithfully.” But there are all those saints in the future, too, those who will know, love, and serve God, well and faithfully, long after I am gone. Praying for them stretches and deepens my contemplation.
In eternity all of us, together, stand before God, united in the praise and blessing that Life is.
O God of expansive inclusiveness, we thank you for the communion of saints. Keep inviting us into timelessness so that we may understand what is true and real and important. We ask this through the One who was born into time so that we may live in eternity. Amen.
Written by Susan Quaintance, Program Coordinator, Center for Life and Learning
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