01 November 2010

All Saints' Day and the Electrician

All Saints' Day
BCP Service II

The Lectionary


I could talk about a lot of people today - very holy women and men who did great things. But today I want to talk about a holy electrician who taught me about the Communion of Saints.

A year ago, my cousin Bernie died. Well, actually, Bernie wasn't my cousin; his wife is my cousin. But in our family, after an arbitrary number of years, the "by marriage" label dissolves and the person magically becomes blood family. So much so that the family tends to side with the "by marriage" partner in disagreements. It's funny how some families function, you know?

As we approached All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, I thought of Bernie a lot. He certainly qualifies for sainthood:  He put up with my cousin for more than 50 years; he was an absolutely stellar parent to three children living in mental darkness as our former Book of Common Prayer used to phrase it; he was an ardent supporter of our parish for 68 years' he was honest and upright at all times. But all of that isn't why I've been thinking of him so much.

I've been thinking of Bernie because of the experience of the Viaticuum.

Our former rector was asked to come when Bernie's wife, and sister thought "it" was getting close. He is having some problems with his memory but he managed to do a proper liturgy for Bernie. But, at the time of Holy Communion he added something. (You need to know that Father is of African ancestry and there is more than just a little Baptist in him.) Before he placed the Body of Christ on Bernie's tongue and spoke the works we all know, he added, with a voice and 'authority' I had not heard him use before:
Bernie, my brother, the next time we all do this with you we're goin' to be doin' it in heaven with Jesus.
It wasn't a comment, it was a fait accompli. That is the moment I a actually realized Bernie really was going to die. But it was also the moment I fully understood what the Communion of Saints really is: mystic, sweet fellowship and connection with those whose rest is won.

I stayed with  his wife and his sister for several more hours and then I went home. I somehow new Bernie didn't want me there when the chariot came.

But before I left, I had the opportunity to thank Bernie for being such a good husband to Zela and a a good father to his children. And, for loving me when I was pretty unlovable. And I told him I was glad he was my cousin and my brother in the Lord.

What I should have thanked him for was teaching me what "The Communion of Saints" means.

As we approach All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, I sing, "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God..." but I add one wee bit, "and one was an electrician named Bernie who taught me more in his death than he did by his 'good life long'."

O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!