Today is All Saints’ Day. What will my family be doing? It’s very simple. This morning, we prayed a shortened version of the Morning Office together (i.e. Lord’s Prayer, Revelation 19:1-16, Te Deum, Apostle’s Creed, Collect for All Saints’). After I write this post, I’m going to pull all of our saints’ picture books out and let my kids pick some to read. Then, tonight, our church has a potluck and a Holy Communion service, where we will sing the classics — “For All The Saints,” “Who Are These Like Stars Appearing?” “The Church’s One Foundation...” And we will partake of the bread and wine as one body, in gratitude that “we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people.”
Here are some of the things I could have done, but didn’t: We’re not dressing up as saints. I didn’t get any special meals together. I didn’t print out any of those fun All Saints’ printables. But, even though I’m a person who is extravagantly disposed to feeling guilty for not doing enough, I don’t feel guilty today.
And when I considered this surprising lack of guilt, I had a moment of realization. It clarified for me something essential to communicate here at the Homely Hours. And it’s very simple: For Anglicans, liturgical living is about following the Prayer Book. And that’s enough. It’s not about pinterest boards, crafts, and special things to buy or make. The creative, organized mom doesn’t have a leg up on all the rest of us.
The Prayer Book gives us a curriculum for our souls. It guides us through the church year with the wisdom of the lectionary and the prayers of the fathers. When we follow the lectionary, we are given the content of daily liturgical living — the Scriptures, arranged according to the church year. And, we are given the prayers of the saints as an inheritance — collects that have been breathed through countless lips in untold hardships and glories. Making these Scripture and prayers our own through the schedule of the church year — THAT is liturgical living.
And, this understanding of liturgical living corresponds to what I’ve learned from the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason. We don’t need to come up with all these special crafts and child-size manipulatives for our little ones. Our children need contact with the Real. For formal schooling, this means a growing relationship to creation and the ideas expressed in what she called “Living Books.” For our spiritual life, it is no different– because it is not separate. Our soul lives on contact with the Real through the prayer of the church and the most living of all living books — the Scriptures. The Book of Common Prayer gives us then (to repeat myself) a curriculum for our souls — adults and children alike.
This morning, as we prayed and ate breakfast (and I didn’t feel guilty about making mundane oatmeal), I couldn’t stop crying as my husband read Revelation 19:1-16. We let our children each have a Halloween lollipop as they listened to these living words:
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
The Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
And his Bride has made herself ready;
It was granted her to clothe herself
With fine linen, bright and pure’ —
For the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.
And the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’ “
We tried to sing the Te Deum, but kept getting choked up (and then laughing at ourselves) as we sang:
“Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of thy glory.
The goodly fellowship of the Prophets praise thee.
The noble army of Martyrs praise thee.
The holy Church throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee.”
My children don’t need me to come up with special feast day activities. They — like me — need to hear the living words of the Scriptures. They — like me — need to feel the words of ancient prayers on their lips. I think it will probably mean more to them to see their parents cry (and then laugh) their way through Scripture readings and canticles, than for me to stress out about feast day “extras.” Because really, they’re nice, but not something to stress out about.
Anglican liturgical living, following the curriculum of prayer and Scripture found in the Book of Common Prayer, brings us straight to the point. Activities and crafts are fun and can be helpful, but they are not essential. The living words of Scripture, from which flows the living prayers of the saints — that is what is essential. May we not be distracted. May we run with perseverance, surrounded as we are with so great a cloud of witnesses. And so I pray this morning with my family and this evening with my church:
“O Almighty God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”