running like sparks through the stubble

This morning I was on the rota to lead matins t 8.00am and the Eucharist which follows at 8.30. Today, being All Souls day, meant the Eucharist included a ‘commemoration of the faithful departed’. For the last week or so the cathedral has had a book of remembrance available for people to write the names of loved ones that have died. Today was an opportunity for people to remember them as I read out each of the names after the Eucharist.

This type of service was a first for me (a year and a bit into cathedral/a bit more traditional life and I thought I would have stopped saying that!), and something that I thought would be another privilege to be involved in. I was particularly struck by the first reading which was from the Wisdom of Solomon in the Apocrypha.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.
In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.

I found the words particularly helpful as I remembered those I know that have died and love the language of ‘running like sparks through the stubble’. I am not sure I entirely understand this; what does ‘the time of their visitation’ mean? To me, this does not speak of death, but speaks of energy, creativity and is quite evocative in its vibrant imagery. This has challenged me today in my theology of how I view the ‘saints departed’ and widens my understanding of ‘joining with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven’ which we say quite often in Anglican Eucharistic prayers.

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