The Ghent altarpiece is probably the most famous work of art associated with the liturgy of All Saints’ Day. Usually, only the lower central panel is shown, the so-called Adoration of the Lamb, where the worshipers are gathered into groups signifying the martyrs, confessors, virgins and so on of the liturgy. I suggest that today we spend a few moments looking at the altarpiece as whole because I think it reminds us of something about this feast we too often overlook. It is a celebration of our redeemed humanity. Adam and Eve, shown without the serpent, please note, are part of the story of our redemption as well as our fall. How easily we forget that! The New Adam, Christ our Lord, takes his flesh from a long line of human ancestors, including some rather dodgy figures. I think that tells us that sin and forgiveness are woven into the story of salvation; that to be a saint is to be a forgiven sinner; and until we draw our last breath, we are still members of the communion of saints by virtue of our membership of the Church, still sinners by virtue of being human. The mystery of salvation is open to us all, but we live now in suspension, as it were, between heaven and earth. Only when the Church Militant, the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant are one will the liturgy of All Saints be complete.
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