Our Octave of All Saints

The righteous shall shine and shall run to and fro
like sparks among the stubble…
               
 -Antiphon on the Psalms, First Vespers of All Saints

The sisters are busy putting the garden to bed: uprooting the spent plants, enriching the soil, putting layers of compost and generous piles of shredded leaves over everything. 

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November Harvest Morning, photo by Erin Martineau

We woke to a heavy frost on Saturday morning.  At first light as the sisters went out with scissors and knives to harvest for Farmer’s Market, they found the kale and collards frozen through.  After some distress about this, we found that most of the harvest revived in buckets of water and the leafy greens went off to market with our syrup, eggs, horseradish.

While the garden dies back and turns brown, the church gives us eight days of reflection upon death while celebrating the saints and our beloved departed friends and family.  After a celebratory, golden liturgy of All Saints Day, we sang our gorgeous plainsong requiem on All Souls Day.  We remembered the departed sisters of the order.  We remembered our family members by name.  On each subsequent day we prayed through the list (one page each day) of departed Associates of the Community of the Holy Spirit.

All week we sang Lauds and Vespers for the Octave of All Saints.  Sunday, the last day of All Saints, we renewed our baptismal vows, remembering again the cycle of life, death, renewal and re-birth in the unique Christian lens of that universal process.

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Day of the Dead Altar, photo by Erin Martineau

The last few years we’ve created an Altar of the Dead.  We place pictures of our dearly departed as well as mementos.  This year I put my father’s medical bag, my grandfather’s cigar box, my mother’s rings, a deck of cards to recognize my grandmother.  On Friday night, we had a festive meal followed by an evening by the fire, a show & tell of the items on the altar, with anecdotes and stories. 

 DayDead1CROPDayDead2CROPWe created marzipan skulls (in imitation of Mexican sugar skulls for the Day of the Dead celebrations – so that children associate the sweetness of the candy with remembrance of the dead.)

 I love the octave of All Saints – the prayers, the remembrances, the contemplation of my own death and the challenges those thoughts bring me to when confronting each day.  I’m reminded to make something good of what’s left of the life alloted to me. 

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Sister Elise delights in finding Therese of Lisieux on my icon shelf.

Last summer my beloved Sister Elise visited the farm.  I took her to my studio and showed her my icon shelf.  She looked at all my books, and the pictures of my favorite saints surrounding me as I work.

“Well,” she said, gesturing at the books and pictures. “You don’t have ANY excuses. “

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