“And he opened his mouth and taught them”
It is, to be sure, “that time of year… when yellow leaves or none or few/ do hang upon those boughs which shake against the cold/ bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang,” as Shakespeare puts it. And yet in the season of scattered leaves and in the culture of scattered souls, there is a gathering, a great and profound gathering. Christ the King strides across the barren fields of our humanity to gather us into glory. It is the glory of the Communion of Saints. It is his gathering, a kind of collecting together of all that is scattered and lost.
The image of human lives as scattered leaves goes back to the Sibylline Oracles of Roman Antiquity conveyed most wonderfully by Vergil and then used by Dante even more wondrously to capture our being gathered together into the Communion of Saints. The whole human story belongs to one book, divinely written, to be sure, but scattered about on the wind; the leaves of the pages, like the leaves of the trees, are scattered and blown about. But by God’s grace the scattered leaves are gathered together into one volume; the leaves of the autumn likened to the pages – the leaves – of a book.
It is a powerful image and one where the ancient culture speaks profoundly to our contemporary world. We are the culture of the scattered, the disconnected and the distracted. Nothing speaks more profoundly to the loneliness and the despair, the desperation and fears of our contemporary world than the idea of the Communion of Saints. We are reminded in the strongest way possible that we are part of something larger than ourselves, that we are not alone but belong to a company beyond number, a spiritual company.
All Saints’ Day recalls us to the vocation of our humanity. We are not called to heroic pretension and presumption but to holiness. We are called to the Communion of Saints. An article of Faith, the lovely vision of the City of God imaged in the Book of Revelation is nothing less than a vision of our redeemed humanity. It signals what God seeks and wills for us and reminds us that our life in Faith always places us in a community. But what kind of community?