November may be the most introspective month of the year. Not only has the weather turned colder, driving us more and more indoors, but the darkening days also tend to make us more reflective. The calendar seems to support this, as the key days of this month bring to mind lost loved ones and the terrible cost of the last century’s wars. Even Thanksgiving Day receives its power to move us from our recollection of blessings we have received.
Episcopalians begin the month of November with All Saints’ Day (November 1), also celebrated by other Christian churches. This is not only a celebration of those whose exemplary faith has inspired us, but also the celebration of the many others who have lived their lives in faith and who now enjoy eternal life in the presence of God. This feast day always contains a somber element as we remember those we still love, even as we mourn their loss. Each parish lovingly recalls its own saints (as Paul called them), their connection to us, and their contribution to our common life. The celebration of All Saints’ Day reminds us that our own days on earth are finite. The reflection upon our own passing lives gives us cause to assess our impact on the world around us, our relationship to God, and the purposes by which we live out our baptismal covenant.
Ninety-five years ago, the nations who put down their arms after the Great War solemnly declared that never again would the world have to suffer the cruelties of such a disastrous conflict. While history has again and again mocked their expectations with greater and even more destructive wars, I believe their hope that someday we will learn to resolve our conflicts in more productive ways and value the gifts of peace will be realized. I am certain that every veteran shares that dream as well.
November includes our celebration of Thanksgiving. Despite the threats around the world and frustrations of trying to govern ourselves as a republic should, we Americans understand how God has not only blessed us in the past, but continues to bless in our day. In reflection upon these our blessings, we take this day to acknowledge the good things we enjoy—the security of peace, our families who surround us, the comforts and richness of our lives—as gifts from the loving God whose steadfast love endures forever.
Finally, this year, the Church reaches the climax of its liturgical year in the celebration of Christ the King Sunday. Completing the vision of that place where all the faithful are eternally gathered before God, this feast day acknowledges that Christ is our Lord and Sovereign over all. Putting all our inward thoughts into this cosmic perspective, we can know that all things have having their meaning within the framework of Christ and His governance. Thus, November can contain the worst of human fears found in war and death and move past that darkness into the vision of God’s realm and the thankful outpouring of our hearts for the gifts of this life and the greater gift of eternal life.