At this season of the year, on the 1st and 2nd of November, the Church ‘keeps the feast’ two days running, with a pair of feasts; All Saints and All Souls, each of which begins with that wonderfully Biblical and inclusive little word All. I remember the effect that little word had on me, coming again and again in the verses of psalm 145, when I read that psalm a little before my conversion, how as each ‘all’ seemed to widen the circle of God’s love, till I began to wonder if even I might be included in one of those alls.. Do you remember them?
9The LORD is loving to everyone *
and his compassion is over all his works.
10All your works praise you, O LORD, *
and your faithful servants bless you.
14The LORD is faithful in all his words *
and merciful in all his deeds.
15The LORD upholds all those who fall; *
he lifts up all those who are bowed down.
16The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD, *
and you give them their food in due season.
17You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
18The LORD is righteous in all his ways *
and loving in all his works.
19The LORD is near to all who call upon him, *
to all who call upon him faithfully.
In the end it was those two little alls in verse 14 that included me; ‘The Lord upholdeth all such as fall: and lifteth up all those that are down.’
Anyway to return to the two lovely alls of these feasts, All Saints and All Souls, I have been reflecting on how easy it is for us to be partial and selective, where God is generous and inclusive, and especially of how when we think of great saints and holy souls, we tend immediately to think of already prominent people, the writers and teachers of the church, the priests and prophets, the big historical figures, people who already have a bit of the spotlight, people whom the world also admires. So in the spirit of the Beatitudes, and of Psalm 145, I thought I’d add to my sonnet sequence for this season, a little sonnet about the ones we overlook, but whom God knows and loves intimately. Its called A Last Beatitude. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button. I borrowed the lovely image of serving coffee from the website of St. Laurence church Cowley Rd
This sonnet is from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press,
If your church is marking all saints or all souls day do feel free to print the words or use the recording.
And blessèd are the ones we overlook;
The faithful servers on the coffee rota,
The ones who hold no candle, bell or book
But keep the books and tally up the quota,
The gentle souls who come to ‘do the flowers’,
The quiet ones who organise the fete,
Church sitters who give up their weekday hours,
Doorkeepers who may open heaven’s gate.
God knows the depths that often go unspoken
Amongst the shy, the quiet, and the kind,
Or the slow healing of a heart long broken
Placing each flower so for a year’s mind.
Invisible on earth, without a voice,
In heaven their angels glory and rejoice.