As we roll into a new year, not only are there fireworks but there is a finale of saints and holy days that are recognized by Christians around the world and it’s easy to get lost in the holiday fever. Here are a few highlights from this past week worth remembering… and you can hum along with “Oh When the Saints Go Marching in” if you know it. And, by the way, the cover picture here is a mural we did with the saints marching painted in pastels by the kiddos and they named it “When the Saints Go Marching In”. So here they are:
STEPHEN THE MARTYR– in addition to the children killed by Herod, Stephen is often known as the first Christian martyr. He was brutally killed as a young man, and one of the folks who oversaw his execution was Saul of Tarsus. Stephen cried out in prayer for God to forgive Saul, and many folks think it is no coincidence that only 2 chapters later in Acts we see Saul’s radical conversion, so radical he changes his name (to “Paul”) – showing us the Gospel hope that even a terrorist is not beyond redemption, because half the new testament was written by one. (Dec 26/27)
THE HOLY INNOCENTS – remembering the children killed by Herod as Jesus was born. (Dec. 28) and the innocents that continue to die today.
JOHN the apostle and Gospel author (Dec. 27)
Basil and Gregory (Jan 2)– (I’m a big fan of Basil – he’s the sassy saint that passionately articulated the early Christian ethic that if you have 2 coats you’ve stolen one from the poor!)
Basil was born in modern-day Turkey. His grandfather was martyred, and his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, became a very influential bishop. In an age marked by doctrinal battles within the church, Basil was a tireless defender of orthodoxy. He is known as an early developer of Christian monasticism, and an incredible preacher and writer. Among his many writings are some of the church’s earliest prayers. Basil’s life was an attempt to live out Christ’s command to “go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” He first left the world to join the monastery, but eventually brought the monastery to the world through the city of Basiliad, also called “The New City.” This was a giant community of monastic men and women working with doctors and other laypeople to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical assistance to the poor of Caesarea. He later went on to become a priest and a bishop, but he always kept his vision of a monastic life not cut off from the world but embracing the pain and sorrow of the world.
Here’s a classic Basil quote: “When someone steals a person’s clothes, we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to those who need it; the shoes rotting in your closet to the one who has no shoes. The money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”
What a great cloud of witnesses… let’s dive into 2013 singing the Hallelujah chorus with the saints of old. Bring it 2013. Life. Love. Joy. Imagination. Smoothies. And all good things.
Shane Claiborne is a prominent author, speaker, activist, and founding member of the Simple Way. He is one of the compilers of Common Prayer, a new resource to unite people in prayer and action. Shane is also helping develop a network called Friends Without Borders which creates opportunities for folks to come together and work together for justice from around the world. His most recent book is Red Letter Revolution, which he co-authored with Tony Campolo.
Photo courtesy of Shane Claiborne