Lament and Rejoice

beechAll Saints is a time To Lament and to Rejoice.

How empty stands the winter tree,
once with a canopy full of leaves.
How bare you are without adornments,
No green covering to shade and protect.

You wept bitterly in the early autumn sun,
As golden leaves turned from the sky and fell to earth.
Your glorious array of colour, vibrant life,
dropped away to leave stark winter branches.

Clinging to the last of them as a mother clings to her children,
Grieving for the splendour of your, once, majestic arches,
Now standing alone, bleak and bereft.
Mourning the life that stood proud in the sun.

Your splendour, once in golden leaf,
has become desolate and black,
carpeting the earth with mildew,
A spreading blanket of decay.

Once life giving, energy changing,
capturing, receiving and pouring out.
Now lying still, lifeless, the last goodness
leaching out into the damp soil beneath.

In despair you stand at the head of winter,
the first clutch of frost at the tip of your branches.
Silent now, rejected by your beloved.
Small tendrils of mist rise to meet a waning sun.

But, come and see what death has become,
bend low and take in the stench of decay.
The warmth in the blanket of leaves,
New life nestling in the carpet of detritus.

A green finger rising through the warm earth,
pointing towards the empty canopy which gave it life.
A shoot emerging from hibernation
growth in the midst of the chaos.

The leaves that died here left their legacy,
of goodness and nutrients.
One life given up for the good of another,
the next chapter in the story of all that lives.

Slowly the old tree feels the warmth in her roots,
the familiar tingling of sap rising.
A glimmer of memory that is behind and before;
The sticky sweet buds already bear new hope.

The last song of the dying leaf was not its golden colours,
it is the bright, vibrant green of new growth.
A winter of despondency, gives way to the spring of rejoicing,
The new canopy is reborn rising majestically from the ashes of the last.

At All Saints it is easy to look back and mourn that which has gone by. In our lectionary this coming week we remember many Welsh Saints from the 6th Century. Theirs is a life hidden from us by more than a dark glass. We can but guess their intentions as they set up preaching crosses, dressed wells and walked from place to place on these islands. But there is a book on my shelves called All Saints. True, it marks some of our well known and beloved, Francis, Dewi Sant, but also it marks others. From Therese of Lisieux to Mother Teresa and from Moses to Ghandi. The quiet sojourner, to the prophetic preacher. Alongside the well known names, it marks those not quite in the honours list, but those whose testimony is just as worthy of honour and those who are not hid by the mists of centuries past. It remembers those with no name ‘The Syrophoenician Woman’ and those who are remembered by title only ‘The Pilgrim’. And on November 1st feast day of all of these it reminds us that we too are part of the cloud of witnesses. We ought not on this day remember a company of ‘immortals’ far removed from our sight. But we are reminded that the saints we remember were human too. There is a path for each of us to follow within our own lives which engages our talents, that contends with our strength and our weaknesses, that responds to the needs of our own neighbours and our own particular moment in history. The feast of All Saints strengthens and encourages us to create that path by walking it. Look at the trees around us as their leaves fall, and look closely at the branches holding them. The new buds are there, ready for the spring just as we should be ready to blossom and come to full life in the light of those who have gone before.

As the old saying goes: If not now then when? and If not me then who?

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