Rev. Scott's Letter September 20 - Saint Giles Day
Delivered By
Rev. Tom Scott
Delivered On
September 20, 2020
Description

 

September 20

 

Dear friends,

We celebrated our patronal festival on September 20th this year.  Seeking the aid of a saint is a very old idea in the history of the church, and I want to say two things about the practice before going on to talk about St. Giles. 

Saints, as the lovely old hymn text by Lesbia Scott puts it, are people from all walks of life who—by their example in life (and death)—effect the faith and life of others by their faith and work. “The saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one, too.” The result is an energized and enriched faith in Jesus Christ and a commitment to discipleship and ministry.

Saints live out the fulness of their faith in all kinds of situations (some very ordinary, others remarkable). Other people who see them find their faith deepened and enlivened. Some saints are lay persons, others religious or clergy. Some saints are profoundly gifted (St. Jerome), other deeply troubled or limited by their bodily capacities (St. Margaret of Cortona and St. Christina the Astonishing).

Saints may be scholars (Saint Catherine) or kitchen helpers (viz. Brother Lawrence). Some may have huge opportunities and resources (Queen Margaret of Scotland) others may literally withdraw from the world (St Julian of Norwich).  Some may live to ripe old age (St Polycarp) or die young, (St. Bernadette).

Some may be soldiers (St. Martin, St. Joan, St Sebastian) while others are deeply pacifist (St. Maximillian of Theviste), some found religious communities (St. Francis and St. Benedict)  and others are solitary (St Alice of Schaerbeek, St. Patrick), some were appreciated in their lifetime (St. Bernard) while others were only later appreciated (St. Cecilia), some died in peace, (St. Thomas Aquinas) others were martyred (St. Lawrence of Rome). 

Some were missionaries  (St. Issac Jogues) and others worked in their immediate environs (St. Anthony), some ministered very publically (St. Barnabas) and others worked within family groups or small groups (St. Macrina) and on and on. The point is, whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, whenever in human history you live, deep engagement with and participation in the ministry of Christ is possible—and you are not the first to do it.

By their life and work, saints are shaped to be more and more an image of Christ, and each becomes a unique, winsome example of Christian personhood.  By that means others are brought more deeply into the life of faith by emulating these holy persons.

The second point is that we Anglicans understand that our prayers in which we use the name of a saint are requests for the saint to join prayers with us to the Father, in the name of the Son, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit.  Or, as the saying goes, we do not pray TO the saint(s), but WITH them.

All of this may seem to be both antiquated and fanciful. All that saint stuff fairly reeks of candle wax, incense, and ugly plaster statuary. But let’s try looking at the matter differently.  Taking St. Giles as an example, what may we learn?  His life was hard—he lived as a hermit in the forests of southern France after leaving his native Greece. He sought no honors or fame, we are told; he lived on a vegetarian diet, endured a lasting wound in defense of an animal, and founded a small monastery for wayfarers on pilgrimage. His life and work nurtured faith around him which made a fertile field for the experience of the power of God to heal and transform—none of which did Giles appropriate for himself. 

So, Christianity was not deeply rooted in his transplanted homeland and the politics of the region were complicated. To live in isolation was risky—a stranger in a strange land  must trust in something outside himself or become brutish in self-defense—Giles rose above that.  He lived within the local ecosphere, not simply subsisting, but able to have supplies for a community and visitors. He was humble and compassionate.  Finally, he was willing to put his own well-being aside for a greater cause.

This sounds a lot more like our time and the way we see we ought to live than perhaps we thought. What do we at St. Giles pray and give and work for?  Are not our ministries and adult formation and commitments to charitable outreach in line with what Giles cared about? I think so. I know we’re not hermits nor do we restrict our diets quite so much as he did, and I don’t know of any miracles associated with us yet (though our part in feeding people is mighty wonderful).  But I know people pray with us and give thanks for us, and the more we give ourselves to God, the more God gives the world through us, and therefore there is no limit to what may happen if we’re willing to be the tinder for the flame of the Spirit.

My prayer is that we will be more and more inspired by the life of Giles to emulate his saintly life. In joining our prayers with his, may we find ourselves more and more willing to be examples and channels of holy witness in our time.

God’s peace and joy,

TCHS

 
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