Grapevine Prayer Diary Integrated Notes
“All the Company of Heaven”
In Arnhem and Nijmegen, we sing or say the “Nicene Creed” together in services more often than the “Apostles’ Creed”. But both have been well-known to Christians of various traditions for hundreds of years. In the “Apostles’ Creed”, the second time we say “I believe”, we confess to six distinct things. The third is: “the Communion of Saints”. For nearly 2000 years, people have been baptized into the Body of Christ. In the New Testament Letters, such people alive together then are addressed as “Saints” – which, as the Area Dean, the Rev. Ruan Crew reminded us in his 2018 Pentecost sermon, means ‘hallowed’, ‘set apart’ to serve our Triune God in love of all our fellows. As Our Lord reminded the Sadducees, ‘He is the God of the living’, quoting how He spoke to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ (Sts. Mark 12:26-27, Matthew 22:31-32, Luke 20:37-38). All the faithful who, like their Lord Jesus, have undergone the sharpness of death, are together with us in His Body the Church: “the Communion of Saints”.
In Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer (1964), C.S. Lewis imagines some correspondent-friends so he could write informally about serious matters as he had been writing for decades to real friends, family members, and inquiring readers of his many books. In Letter II, he says, “My grandfather, I’m told, used to say he ‘looked forward to having some very interesting conversations with St. Paul when he got to heaven.’ Two clerical gentleman talking at ease in a club! It never seemed to cross his mind that an encounter with St. Paul might be rather an overwhelming experience even for an Evangelical clergyman of good family. But when Dante saw the great apostles in heaven they affected him like mountains. There’s lots to be said against devotions to saints; but at least they keep on reminding us that we are very small people compared with them. How much smaller before their Master?” In Letter III, he sees himself as having introduced “another red herring”, here. He says, “I only hope there’ll be no scheme for canonizations in the Church of England. Can you imagine a better hot-bed for yet more divisions between us?” But he continues, “The consoling thing is that while Christendom is divided about the rationality, and even the lawfulness, of praying to the saints, we all agree about praying with them. ‘With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.’”
The Book of Common Prayer (often abbreviated BCP in the notes) not only includes a number of Saint’s Days among the Holy-Days which are provided with Lessons and a Collect, but has long noted many further Saint’s Days in its Calendar. All of these have been included here. While the Church of England has not worked out any “scheme for canonizations”, various Anglican jurisdictions have, in their publications, added new people to commemorate (some of these even include C.S. Lewis!).
A couple years ago, now, in 2014, our Grapevine Editor invited me to write something about a monthly selection of these, old or new, who, for one reason or another, may particularly invite attention (since to say something, briefly, about each and all in any month, however fitting, would fill far too many pages). It seemed a good idea, and we went on repeating it from June 2014 through August 2017, and now present an integrated version here online!
When we started, we had more notes every month, so each was shorter. As we went along, we decided to have fewer and longer notes, until we ended up with one for each week. That explains the mixture of longer and shorter notes when we integrated them, here.
Names of saints are regularly followed by the year in which they died, and – sometimes various – days on which they are commemorated. Almost all saints are first commemorated on the day of their death as ‘birthday into Heaven’ (in Latin, dies natalis), while there are often also commemorations of later ‘translations’ of their bodies or relics, when those were moved from one place to another – frequently, with the rebuilding of the church where they repose.
Since these notes are necessarily selective, it is worth mentioning some resources I used in writing them, so you can easily look up more information, if you like. Two books I used a lot are Donald Attwater, The Penguin Dictionary of Saints (1965) and David Hugh Farmer, The Oxford Dictionary of Saints (1979 corrected reprint). Both often list further reading, some of which is now available online.
I also looked at Wikipedia articles in various languages and the works they link or list, and the old Catholic Encyclopedia as transcribed at New Advent: newadvent.org
With a Dutch priest, Roderick Vonhögen, as CEO, Terry Jones’s English-language site allows you to look them up alphabetically, by date, and by other characteristics. An astonishing variety of editions of The Book of Common Prayer, and so of its calendar, are accessible thanks to: Justus.anglican.org
Over the past four years an international group of scholars have been noting the earliest evidence of special attention to saints “from its origins to circa AD 700, across the entire Christian world” whether in “Armenian, Coptic, Georgian, Greek, Latin or Syriac”. And the results have been made freely available online in English since All Saints’ Day 2017 (after all my notes had been written).
I learnt of this thanks to the excellent blogger, Roger Pearse, who describes his blog as “Thoughts on Antiquity, Patristics, Information Access, and More”, who himself only learnt of it recently in the course of his research on ‘England’s own’ St. George.
David Llewellyn Dodds