Vigil of All Soul’s Choral Evensong:
On the Other Side of Language
Nov 4 2012 E. Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Ga
The Rev. Cynthia Hizer
The First Lesson Isaiah 25:6-9
On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the LORD has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the LORD for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
Some years ago the old Indian Jusuka was dying. His family and friends came close to say good bye. Friends who had been his helpers and teachers and protectors. Friends like wind and rain, and fox.
Wind had come to Jusuka when he was a nine-year old boy, and had taught him the wisdom of weather. Fox too, had found the young boy freezing in the woods, and took him back to the fox den until he warmed up and then guided him back home.
It might seem strange to be able to communicate with such noble beings who we love but who don’t speak our language.
Remembrance, is a kind of language, like feeling; it is primal language.
In the same way, the circle of life that we honor tonight is not unbroken by death. Jusuka, and now we, are able to communicate on the other side of language.
So tonight, we set out pictures and light candles and sing songs and invoke the mystical journey of our lives.
On this night we pause from our grief over the natural rhythm of things, we pause to remember, to unbind our minds
This All Soul’s remembrance, – Sanhain it is called in the Celtic language, or Halloween.
This holiday is found in so many places that it cannot be ignored, it cannot be reasoned away. We can dress up in costumes and go to parties, we can make light of it with goblins and witches, but beneath that veneer our true work, waits.
In this metanoia, this remembering, we return to a scene of life with our beloved, and stop there, and relive it.
Enter into it and allow time to stop. The moment becomes eternal. We start with our grief, and the silent space there where we stop holds the seeds of our healing.
I had one of these moments this weekend, remembering my grandmother, Anna, who gardened barefoot, and planted peanuts in northern Indiana. I didn’t really appreciate this until I moved to the South.
I remember her rough garden hands, her old Indian hands, and her focus on the soil, and her focus on me. And me covered with mud, like her. Mud to mud, earth to earth, dust to dust, we were. This mud we shared, was a communication, a language on the other side of language. And I knew that she lived.
Our reading from John tells us this clarity is for those who see and hear and believe – and they will pass from death to life. Right now, the veil between this world and the next is thin, so we have a particular clarity. It is a veil removed, a gossamer sheet of silk or maybe a rough piece of linen that that covered all the nations all the worlds all the peoples and tonight,
it opens for us.
and yet, while the veil the sheet the cloth that is lifted, covers all the people all the nations, it is on this mountain that the lord stands with us in this moment. This mountain, this ICU unit this hospice room where death seemed so real. It is on our very own mountain that God brings this clarity of life.
Tonight, our candle lighting and music help open the portal, lift the veil to hear this voice and see things larger than hearing and seeing -
What do we find in this opening tonight?
We find our Beloveds – doing fine.
Eating a feast and drinking well-aged wine and rich food filled with marrow. We see them not in sadness, or loneliness or coldness of winter, but luxuriating in the warmth and glow of the resurrected light - with that warmth spreading and enveloping them in the clarity of this night.
And on this mountain we see our own tears being wiped away by this Lord who has spoken across time and space, in a different kind of language.
We see this Light enveloping us also. As we enjoy the rich fare and remember the mud the love the connection. In this remembering, the shroud, the veil, the sheet that was cast over all the peoples, over all the nations, is destroyed.
It is destroyed by the power to remember.[i]
Because our love is stronger than death.
On the other side of language, like Jusuka speaking to fox and wind speaking to him, anyone who remembers will swallow up death forever.