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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Glory of the Saints

We must remember those who have gone before.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...

  - Hebrews 12.1

Let all our mind/be upon the people of God, whom we do not conceal.

  - Oengus mac Oengobann, Feilire Oengusso (Irish, 9th century)

"Feilire" means something like, "martyrology." Oengus was moved to write a long poem celebrating the glory of the saints who had gone before. He believed it is important to remember these people and to honor their achievement, so that we will be sure in our generation to carry on with their example.

I think Oengus was right. Church history tells the story of remarkable men and women whose faith, courage, perseverance, and accomplishments have made it possible for you and me to know the Gospel. It is an act of supreme hubris and ingratitude to ignore our Christian forebears or to fail to give thanks to God for their accomplishments.

Which, by the way, are not yet complete; their work continues on our behalf even as we continue to disregard those who have gone before.

The Book of Revelation suggests that the saints in glory, as part of their continuing worship of King Jesus, have something to do with making our prayers "presentable" to God. In Revelation 5.8 the "24 elders" - a number symbolically representing the believers of the Old and New Testament periods, or of the Jewish and Gentile branches of the Church - are described as holding "bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." Our prayers, it seems, are in some way made read for the throne of glory by those who have preceded us there.

Here is no instruction or justification for praying to the saints, as Celtic Christians began to do later in their period of flourishing, under the influence of Roman Catholicism. But it seems clear to me that the saints who have gone before us into heaven are even now working on our behalf, "sprucing up" our prayers with the fragrance of heaven and helping to expedite their being received by the Lord.

And still we ignore them.

We don't read their works. We know almost nothing of their achievements. We don't weep for their sorrows, sacrifices, or suffering. We prefer to remain ignorant of their contribution to our cultural lives. We don't even know their names.

Thanks, Oengus, for helping to make our prayers acceptable to the Lord, and for reminding us that we would have no faith in Christ, no forgiveness of sins, no hope of glory, no eternal dwelling-place with Christ were it not for the work - then and now - of those who have gone before us into glory.

Do I make too much of this?

Just remember that one day we will meet these people face to face. I want to greet them like friends and family - like Paul in Romans 16 - giving praise to God for the contribution of as many of them as I can.

In particular, for their contribution to my own prayers.

T. M. Moore, Principal

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T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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