Random Thoughts on Saints and Sainthood

Why do people get into Lesser Feasts and Fasts? Is it because they’re famous Episcopalians who did good stuff–or is it because we as a church feel that they are among the Blessed Dead?

Do we still have a sense of who the Blessed Dead are? We kept the Feast of All Saints; we dropped the Feast of All Souls.

The Church used to structure its sense of temporal connection with three categories:
The Church Militant: us poor bastards slogging our way towards salvation now.
The Church Expectant: Those who have died in the Lord who sleep in the earth until they are called before the great judgment seat on That Great Day.
Tjhe Church Triumphant: Those dead in the Lord who prolepticly enjoy the very presence of the Lord and intercede for us before the Throne of God.
So . . . where are we on those last two these days?

As a Lutheran I had a notion that the saints were people who embodied Christ to and and for others. I still think that’s true. But . . . in my encounters with the early medieval sources (including the good, the bad, and the laughable) and in my own “faith journey” I’ve come to believe that not all saints are, well, equal.

I’m still wrestling with some of these things–feel free to wrestle along with me…

7 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on Saints and Sainthood

  1. *Christopher


    I think there is some truth to your statement about not all saints being equal, as some more than others embody more fully Christ or are more filled with the Light of Tabor or are more windows onto God than others.

    I’m not sure where I stand on the last two in any systematic way, but what you do remind me here is that we can take our walk for granted, be lazy about our discipleship, coast on grace rather than work with God to embody grace in our lives, be about ourselves rather than spur one another on in the race, and the tragedy is won’t be all that we could become in this life. But that gets us into questions of discipline (that unpopular word, ascesis) and growth in the virtues.

  2. bls



    But you know, I have a serious question in regards to the Churches both Expectant and Triumphant. To wit: isn’t there a contradiction in the various positions on “life after death”? I mean, there seem to be two distinct and contradictory understandings of this event. We go to live with God either:

    a) At some point after we die, and after we’ve passed through purgation?


    b) When trump from East to West shall wake the dead in number? At the last day, etc. when we shall all be changed, etc.

    So which are we talking about, and if it’s (b), how did this better class of Saints get to cut into the line?

  3. Derek the Ænglican

    Biblically speaking, the evidence on death seems to be that you’re dead and you sleep in the earth for a bit, then there’s a general resurrection when the judgmenet happens, then the blessed live with God and the rest–don’t.

    But–Rev also speaks of the throng that none can number from every tribe, language, people, and nation around the throne. Rev is unclear on whether this represents humans in heaven before the judgment or not. (drawing doctrine from apocalytpic lit is tricky at best and, as a rule, not advisable…).

    The way that the church has traditionally understood it is that the pure in heart will see God. So, after death those souls who will eventually see God when the judgement is decided must be purified (purgatory). However, there are some individuals who, through the grace of God that manifests in their words and works both before and after death, demonstrate their continuing efficacious intercession for the living. That is, they’re dead–but their still active. The Church reasoned that these, the saints, the Church Triumphant, got to skip the purifying part and could head directly to the throne of God.

    That reminds me of several good Lutheran jokes. Yes, there’s a difference by being saved through baptism/faith/etc. and actively participating in the work of God.

  4. Marshall

    The General Convention approved revisions to the principles for designating commemorations drafted by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music in resolution A057 (http://gc2006.org/legislation/view_leg_detail.aspx?id=62&type=CURRENT). Those principles are available in the Report in the Blue Book Online at http://www.episcopalarchives.org/e-archives/bluebook/16.html. (They’re right at the beginning of that report.) They include Historicity, Christian Discipleship, Significance, Memorability, Range of Inclusion, Local Observance, Perspective, Levels of Commemoration, Combined Commemorations, and Common of Saints. This part of the report is readable, but too detailed to cover in a comment on a post. however, they’re worth looking at.

  5. Caelius

    When did we drop All Souls? My 1979 BCP still lists it on the kalendar. Oh, wait a minute, you mean that All Souls lost its meaning because everyone are saints in the ascendant post-1979 theology.

    I’ve read the Report Marshall+ mentioned, I’ll see if I can put more extensive analysis together on that section.

  6. Derek the Ænglican

    Thanks Marshall! Those are very helpful links.

    I look forward to reading and commenting on what you put together Caelius. And you are correct, All Souls is technically on the kalendar but it has been downgraded and I’ve only ever been in one church that honored it (Smokey Mary).

  7. bls

    OK – but where do Indulgences fit in? Are these pre-purchases? And why are these people in Purgatory already?

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