A few weeks ago we published our translation of The Content of Christian Faith by Archbishop Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931), Primate of Sweden, religious scholar, theologian and one of the founders of the ecumenical movement. Today, on the vigil of All Saints, we translated his reflection on who the saints are, their importance in our lives. This text too comes from the Dutch edition of the Archbishop’s reflections “Een jaar. Een woord voor elken dag van het jaar”. Archbishop Söderblom quotes in it the words of the hymn “For All the Saints”, whose rendition by Cambridge King’s College Choir we posted below.
Saints are people who were the salt in the world and contributed to preserving it from spoiling. Saints are those who let divine light shine freely, for themselves and for others. Saints are people who show with their essence, their lives, and their works that God lives. Their light shines through all times. They lighten our lives. For their light reflects God’s power and the glory of Jesus.
The fact that saints exist makes life more valuable and easier to live. For they help us understand that God lives. They are not a group, party or organization, perhaps they even don’t always agree with each other. Not aware of it, they come to the foreground and give us something even not because of what they do for us, for our case and for others, but because of what they are, the honesty, love and authenticity which characterize their essence. Considering themselves as those who receive, they make also us humbly and teach us. Considering themselves incapable to anything, they elevate us. I do not say that we seek contact with them and exchange favors in daily life. But when it happens accidentally that we meet them, it gives us joy and happiness. And if this doesn’t happen, even though not wanting this perhaps, we thank God for them. This is the task we all were entrusted with, to reveal God’s life in our own essence, despite all obstacles and adversities. It is the task of us all to show that God lives.
This circle broadens far beyond the twelve tribes of Israel, to include all Christianity and even beyond Christianity, to include all these numerous peoples, times and languages, all people who lived not for earthly things and their own material gains, but for eternal good. It broadens to include all who show us that the human being is not only a child of this earth, but that her destiny is to live in blessed communion with God.
When we become discouraged and weary, when we think that our struggles are pointless and our attempts skewed or half-unreal and amazingly vulnerable, we should raise our eyes to the “great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language.”