01 November 2015
Eve of All Souls’ Day
Revd Jonathan Cain
Wisdom 3:1-9; 1 Peter 1:3-9
Just inside the entrance to Tate Britain there is a very impressive spiral rotunda staircase leading down into the basement. Set below an equally impressive glass dome, it is a place to pause before moving through into the various galleries. And as you pause, the sounds of the traffic and crowds of Pimlico recede and you become aware of another sound; a mesmerising chorus of birdsong.
Something Going On Above My Head is a sound ‘sculpture’, which brings together the sounds of two thousand birds. Creator Oswaldo Maciá collected bird calls from ornithological archives and audio libraries and reworked them into a symphony. Carefully positioned speakers fill the space above the visitor’s head. To tune out of London’s noise and tune in to the ‘something going on above your head’ is to be transported to another place.
As we say and sing psalms and canticles in worship it is our tradition to pause in the middle of each verse. This practice might seem a little odd to the uninitiated and coordinating a number of voices to come in at the same time can be challenging, but the important reason for the silent pause was once explained to me by Father Peter Allan, the Principal of the College of the Resurrection in Mirfield. Jonathan, he said, we pause so that we can tune in to the continuous worship of the saints in heaven. To tune in to the worship in heaven is to be transported to another place.
In the Apostles’ Creed we affirm our belief in the communion of saints; a holy community with a number of dimensions. The communion of saints posits a bond of companionship among living persons who form one community, the Church, across the globe. Since nothing, not even death, can separate people from the love of God, the communion of saints, stretches backward and forward in time to connect us, the Church today, with those who have died in all ages. There is something going on, not just above our heads, but across all time and space.
In the readings this evening both Wisdom and Peter describe faith as more precious than gold. Faith that proclaims belief in the communion of saints is precious; faith that proclaims “new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” is precious; faith that proclaims “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven” is precious; faith whose outcome is “the salvation of your souls” is precious. This is our faith.
And so, as we gather on the Eve of All Souls’ Day we remember those who have died whom we have known and loved. To give thanks for lives lived and memories created; perhaps to pray for reconciliation for hurts unresolved; perhaps to grieve; we hope to find comfort.
In Something Going On Above My Head, Oswaldo Maciá alludes to the many daily events that go unnoticed by the majority of people. Having spent some time with the Community of the Resurrection at Mirfield, I am sure that Father Peter and his brothers really are able to tune in and hear the saints in heaven singing psalms back to them. For most of us however, holding on to the sense that there is something going on across all time and space is really difficult, but this is our precious faith; that by the love of God and by the saving power of Jesus Christ, those whom we have loved and see no more have been transported to another place … and this faith really is more precious than gold.