Readings and stuff for Sunday (Nov 7)
This Sunday is "All Saints' Sunday" or, more formally, "The Sunday Next Following All Saints' Day".
Some time ago, there was a marvelous movie starring John Travolta about an angel (played by Travolta) come to earth on some mission. I think his name was Michael, and that may have been the name of the movie as well. In any case, the angel is not at all what the couple who wind up traveling with him expected. He was what my mother used to call "rough around the edges". He was coarse, slovenly and did not seem particularly interested in anyone's welfare.
Finally, in exasperation, the woman who was traveling with him said to him, "I thought angels are supposed to be very good!" To this Travolta answered, "No, no. You're thinking of saints."
People often confuse angels with saints. An angel is a heavenly being, a separate order of God's creation. An angel is essentially a messenger of God. When God wants us to know something or do something, he sends an angel to tell us all about it (as with the shepherds when Jesus Christ was born).
The Bible even says there different orders, or classes, of angels. Arch-angels (there are four), Seraphim, Cherubim and just regular angels.
A saint, on the other hand, is a human being who, having lived an extraordinarily holy life, is lifted into heaven to make intercession for us in the presence of God. A saint may be a person who led us through teaching – like St. Thomas Aquinas; or a person of great piety – like Dame Julian of Norwich; or a person who made great sacrifices in God's name – like Constance and her companions (the Martyrs of Memphis), Episcopal nuns who perished in a terrible plague in Memphis Tennessee caring for the victims of that plague; or persons of great devotion and churchmanship – like Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury and author of the First Book of Common Prayer (and author of much of the Anglican tradition as well). The list could go on and on: There are over one hundred and sixth five saints listed in our own Prayer Book.
An angel is a heavenly being who may come to earth from time to time, a saint is a human being who is translated into heaven because of their "heavenly example here on earth" (as the old Prayer Book puts it).
Our current Prayer Book presents it this way, "…we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks for the wonderful virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of thy grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations…"
God bless you and thank you.