Feasting with Saints in the Kingdom of God
In the Apostles’ Creed we recite that we believe in the communion of saints. The communion of saints includes us! For Anglicans “all baptized Christians are saints” (Price and Weil Liturgy for Living 240). Yet we also celebrate particular people whom the church has recognized as outstanding examples of faith and life, people whom God has given us as gifts. They are people just like us whom God has used in extraordinary ways, leaving us an example to follow. Without getting into the technicalities of red-letter and black-letter days, the most important thing to know about saints is that we celebrate them with Feast Days. Christian liturgical practices include feasting and commemorating the saints with feast days as rites of celebrating the work of God.
Feasts are Pictures of the Kingdom of God
Feasts are celebrated throughout the Bible and are the essence of Christian faith and practice. When the Prophet Isaiah tells us what God promises to accomplish, he describes the new world as the mountain of God using the imagery of feasting and celebration (Isaiah 25:6–9). The Gospel of St. John reveals the nature of God’s new creation at a wedding feast. The first sign that made manifest His glory and revealed His purpose was transforming water into the finest wine the guests would consume. (John 2:1–11). In the Book of Revelation St. John shares a vision of the wedding supper of the Lamb, “Then the angel said to me, ‘Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’” And he added, “These are the true words of God” (Revelation 19:9).
When St. Paul speaks of the church, he often refers to her as “the bride of Christ.” The best picture of heaven on earth is a wedding feast where we (the church) are the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom. Like all great weddings there is music and food, what Isaiah refers to when he says “a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines” (Revelation 19:6 – 9; Isaiah 25:6).
We look forward to this heavenly feast, but we also take care to feast in the present anticipating the great feast in the age to come. We do this every time the Eucharist is celebrated as we feast upon the body and blood of Jesus. When we partake of the sacrament we participate in the powers of the age to come, we are built up in faith, hope, and love, and we experience the presence of God with us.
Saints are Participants in the Kingdom of God
Feasts celebrated in the name of Christ are where saints enter the picture. As Anglicans, we have special feast days commemorating the lives of the saints who have come before us. As Christians we can celebrate what God has accomplished in the lives of the faithful. It is a celebration of what God has done! It is a celebration of how God has demonstrated the power of his Kingdom in the lives of those who live by faith. We should see the lives of the saints as triumphant “continuations and manifestations of the Paschal victory of Christ” with whom we are united in heavenly “fellowship of love, prayer, and witness” (Mitchell Prayer Shapes Believing30–31).
Celebrating and commemorating the lives of the saints reminds us of the Gospel. It draws us into sacred time. Sacred time moves us from spectators to participants, helping us to identify with the life of Jesus, helping us to discern the truth that as His people we are the body of Christ. Through remembering, celebrating, worshiping, praying, and feasting upon the Eucharist we experience a small taste of heaven on earth!
Remembering the saints includes them in the body of all believers and reminds us that we are included too. We are part of the body of Christ as they are part of the body of Christ. We look forward in hope of the resurrection as they look forward in hope of the resurrection. We feast upon the body and blood of Christ as they feast on the body and blood of Christ as Christ gives his very presence to us in Holy Communion. Remembering the saints is a way that we acknowledge them in the feast that we share as a foretaste of that final feast to come in that kingdom where death will be no more, where mourning will cease and give way to everlasting joy, peace, and feasting.
This article was written by a parishioner. Photo: All Saints Icon (Russia, 1890)