I Met a Saint Today

The first few verses of the twelfth chapter of Hebrews has long held a special place for me. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” is the opening phrase. What does it mean to be surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses?

I had a thought the other day as I was completing a “wellness assessment” for work. The survey asked if I had people I felt I could turn to in need, if I felt I had enough friends, that sort of thing. I realized that I do; I have a multitude I can turn to anytime I want.

The Church has long held there are three categories of the faithful: the church militant, the church expectant, and the church victorious. The church militant is us, the faithful still “fighting the good fight”. The church expectant are those who have died and are awaiting glorification. And the church victorious are those who have already been glorified.

The amazing thing is, as we say when we confess our faith, we have communion with the whole Church — the communion of saints. What does that mean? It means that because we share one head — Christ — we are one body. Death does not remove us from the Body of Christ.

That means I am surrounded by people I can turn to, both physically living and dead. And I feel like I am meeting new people all the time. I was just telling my wife yesterday that I “met” a new saint. In this case, it was Saint Vincent of Lérins. He was a fifth century monk and writer of whom not a lot is known, but he wrote a work call the Commonitorium, which has been frequently translated and preserved through the ages.

The quote that caught my eye and led me to this particular saint was this:

“Yet teach still the same truths which you have learned,
so that though you speak after a new fashion,
what you speak may not be new.”

Commonitorium, Chapter 22

Good advice, and another way to state Jude verse three, “Beloved, being very eager to write to you of our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

Our duty is not to be innovators of the faith, but transmitters. I am glad there is a cloud of witnesses so that I don’t have to make things up, but I can largely see what the saints before me have believed and taught. If I can but faithfully echo what they have passed on, I will have been faithful in my duties as a minister of the Gospel.

So I continue to read, study, and pray as I enjoy my ever-widening circle of fellow members of the Body of Christ. I look forward to the day when we can worship God side-by-side in a the great multitude in Heaven. Maybe we’ll get to chat. Or maybe it won’t matter, because we’ll finally be face-to-face with God.


The Frame

Growing up with a dad who worked in a bicycle store was about as good as having a dad who ran a candy store. At least I thought so. I remember coming home from school one day to find a large box by our door. I pulled it inside and called Dad at work. “There’s a box here for you.” He told me to open it up and inside was a chrome Hutch BMX frame.

Dad told me that the frame was for me because somehow he had received an extra. It was now mine and we were going to build me a new BMX bike from the frame up. It wasn’t that I didn’t already have one — my trusty Mongoose was in the garage — but to my young mind, I was moving up. I was going from an off-the-rack bike to custom built. Everybody had a Mongoose, but only serious riders had a Hutch.

Soon we were picking out parts and bringing them home. I realized, even then, I was getting stuff that hadn’t sold well at the store, but I didn’t care. It was different, which made it that much more cool to me. My new bike had slightly narrower tires than the typical BMX bike and I willingly took a Uniseat, which was a narrow piece of plastic permanently attached to a fiberglass seat post. It was made to be lightweight, not comfortable, and it fulfilled both.

When we were done, I had a bike that was the envy of all the neighborhood and it all started with a frame. Before the frame, all the components were in the bike shop, but we had no place to hang them. Since I had nothing to put them on, there was no point in getting them.

The historic creeds of the church function in much the same way, especially the Apostle’s and Nicene Creeds. They provide a frame upon which to hang more expansive explanations and ancillary doctrines. This is actually pretty important.

Going back to bikes for a minute, take a piece of paper and try to draw one from memory and then compare it to an actual bike. How did you do? Apparently, this is harder than riding one. It’s hard to believe this is so difficult, but perhaps I had an unfair advantage growing up in a bike shop. I’ve worked on dozens of bikes in my life and I still do all my own maintenance to this day.

Part of the difficulty for some to draw a bike might be their focus on the bike’s components. We interact with the things attached to the the frame, and not the frame itself, so most of the drawings have nothing more than wheels, a seat, and handlebars. Some even left off pedals, but it is the frame that is most consistently wrong in all of these drawings.

When you get the frame wrong, the whole thing doesn’t work right. If you gave those same folks a sketch of a frame, they could probably finish the drawing pretty well. The same goes for theology. If we have an orthodox “frame,” it is easier to put the whole thing together in a coherent way. It is not a guarantee, but it gives us the critical piece — the piece that holds the other parts together.