The saints behind June 19, June 20, June 22, June 23
This week is a personal doozy.
June 19th: 7 year anniversary of the accident which killed my first husband, and which gave Karl his awful traumatic brain injury.
June 20th of that year (June 19th this): Father’s Day. That year, I had actually bought ahead of the day a fancy Swiss Army knife for Bill that he’d been coveting at a shop down the way from our apartment, and a fine pen set across from our favorite grocery spot. I still have them, and will give them to the children when they might be ready to receive them.
June 22nd, the anniversary (this year, 15th) of his and my combined ordination on Lake Poinsett, here in South Dakota. It is also my sister’s birthday.
June 23rd, my late husband’s birthday.
And this year, we have Trinity Sunday to kick the series of anniversaries off.
Here’s what the Online Etymological Dictionary has to say about the word “anniversary.”
early 13c., originally especially of the day of a person’s death, from M.L. anniversarium, from L. anniversarius (adj.) “returning annually,” from annus (gen. anni) “year” (see annual) + versus, pp. of vertere “to turn” (see versus). The adjective came to be used as a noun in Church Latin as anniversaria (dies) in reference to saints’ days.
The roots of the word being tied to year (annus) and turning (versus) do not surprise me, but the original and particular association of it with the remembrance of a person’s death, and to saints’ days, does.
Oddly enough, I was just telling daughter Else yesterday about how her papa taught me about sainthood. (For the record, she brought sainthood up, thanks to another conversation she was having with someone else and for the life of me I can’t remember what spurred that one. Oh yes! Now I do! A Saint Bernard had been in a story she had been reading!)
I had been asked by my seminary Alma Mater to preach about Monica, mother of Augustine. You can read about her here.
Point is, in the calendar pastors were given then, saints’ days were marked along with why each person was considered a saint.
Keep in mind that we Lutherans don’t really get into the whole sainthood thing. That we mark them at all in our calendar is noteworthy, and necessitates an explanation of why they are there.
So people were listed as saints because they were martyrs, or educators, or missionaries….you get the gist.
She was a saint because she was a mother of Saint Augustine.
That bugged me.
It bugged me for obvious feminist reasons. She was considered a saint….because she mothered a man? And a man who didn’t in the long run do women a whole boatload of favors–though asked several of them, if you get my meaning?
Greatly perturbed, irritable, and frustrated (not to mention nervous because I was preaching in front of my esteemed former professors, and what was I thinking to accept the invitation in the first place), I flung myself on the back yard lawn on a sunny day exactly one day before I was to preach.
That’s where Bill found me.
“Babe,” he said, with a faint grin on his face. “Um, whatcha doin’?”
“Pouting,” I said, quite honestly. “I’m really ticked that the only reason we remember Monica is because of her relationship to another!”
And Bill said, in his quiet way, “Babe? Isn’t that the point of a saint?”
He was right.
It is the point of a saint.
And he wrote my sermon for me in that singular statement.
Feminists have in fact done much to draw attention to the idea that the Trinity is really about relationship: Relationship between Father/Son/Holy Spirit; relationship between God and creation; relationship between humans and humans, and humans and creation.
Each of these impending and imposing dates in my little world signifies either a birth or a death: the death of a man loved, the birth of a sister and husband loved, the birth of a new role as man, and the birth of a new vocation.
And, not so coincidentally, each event signifies a new relationship to a person, to people, or to a reality.
And, note, each relationship has a beginning and an end.
Although strict beginnings and endings are difficult, dates help in remembering.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”
So it says in 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and it has become the traditional Trinitarian Greeting.
Grace, Love, and Communion.
It’s hard to do that alone, outside of relationship.
In relationship, it takes one’s breath away–both when the relationship is vibrant and alive, and when it dies.
So the Trinity is so confusing it is a day most wise preachers vacation (I’m talking to you, Lori).
And tragedy and transitions are so confusing it is on occasion unbearably difficult to see how one can get through, let alone whether a God is beside you.
That said, on loaded anniversaries I find that there is something to be said about grace, and love, and communion–both of the Spirit and of the saints–and relationships.
And while I brace myself for this week of anniversaries weeks ahead, at the very least I am reminded of Monica, of saints, and of the myriad of relationships which claim us, define us, hold us accountable, call us, cherish us, and which mark us as loved, even if believing it is the starkest impossibility in our minds.
Grace, and love, and communion be with you all.