One of my favorite ‘big’ books is The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. It came as a gift after finishing seminary, and has traveled with us around the States and across the equator since. This reference book (check google for what those are) is packed with snapshots from Church history–tight, dense writing that provides a surprising amount of information in scant space. I find myself pulling this book off the shelf to check on some obscure or well-known figure, only to stay and flip pages to read about others. It’s a great tool for discovery and confirmation; it’s also a good book to consider as this All Saints Day draws to a close.
All Saints Day wasn’t on my radar as a kid. Halloween–that was a no-brainer–but All Saints? Not til college, and Charles Williams’ All Hallows Eve, did I even know the day was part of the Church calendar. Since then, it still doesn’t register as perhaps it should–and I wonder why. Probably there’s some deep-rooted religious chauvinism at work; probably, there’s also some laziness on my part.
The Christian Church’s history is full of amazing biographies, women and men who gave their lives in the service of others, mystics whose utterances caused both head-scratching and heart-searching, scholars who wrapped mighty brains around theological conundrums, artists who made music and sculpture and dance to spark or accompany awe… the list is long and of great variety. Some of these stories we know; some we tell over and again. But so many others lie covered by the dust of years, untethered to contemporary experience and unsung by any herald.
Might All Saints Day offer a way to bring back at least some of these stories? I know, it’s a little late: All Saints is all but past, and there’s turkey to buy and a tree to hack out of the woods. But this is a time of year when memories flood in–and so maybe this is a time when we’d do well to open those gates a bit wider, to permit a few more characters to take a place at the table.
Is there a story you know about someone whose biography may or may not be in the Oxford Dictionary, or a saint whose experience has encouraged/stirred/amused you?
image came from here