The Festival of the Heavenly Jerusalem

November 1, 2020

What a blessing and gift to be alive!  On this day we celebrate a festival in heaven and we gather as Church.  We are invited to have a foothold in two places at the same time.  We gather with all of the saints and are drawn to this celebration in heaven.  It is a celebration beyond our imagination.  There is an immense vastness to this glorious festival and we are in union with it.  We come together as a Church in this place to give thanks for how we are called to live our faith in the expectation of being called to that heavenly realm.  We echo what is proclaimed in the first reading from Revelation, “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”  The vastness and scope of this celebration is to take our breath away.  John gives us a description in our first reading of all who are invited.  The vision begins with the descendants from every tribe of the children of Israel.  The covenant is found true, Israel and its descendants are at the festival.  Then the next group is recognized, it is a great multitude that no one can count.  All of this is for this celebration of saints.  This goes beyond the saints we can recall, the names we know, like St. Anne, St. Benedict, St. Scholastica, St. Francis, St. Clare, St. John, St. John Paul the Second and St. Lucy.  It is such a vast number no one can count.  But the vision is not over.  Yet another group is placed at the festival, those who are wearing white robes.  These are ones who survived the time of great distress and have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.  This invitation is the one that connects heaven and earth.  We are called in this Eucharistic celebration to come to the Supper of the Lamb.  We say together, “Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us and grant us peace.”  We proclaim a response to this incredible invitation to bring ourselves to the blood of the Lamb and be cleansed.  When we do, our sins are forgiven, our salvation comes from the Lamb of sacrifice who died for our sins.  This first reading offers us a doorway to living for heaven while walking in the time of great distress and anxiousness.  We are to always be aware of heaven and its great invitation to this celebration in the festival of the heavenly Jerusalem.  At the same time we are also called to seek the source of our salvation and we are to echo the proclamation here and now, “Salvation comes from our God who is seated on the throne and from the Lamb.”  We are to seek that salvation each and every day on earth.  We are to embrace Jesus the young preacher who tells His disciples on the Mount in the Gospel, “…Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are those who mourn…Blessed are those who hunger.”  When we see the blessings that may be found in the poor, those who mourn and those who are hungry, we catch a glimpse of how we are to present ourselves to the Lamb and to this altar of sacrifice.

This day is truly a day of rejoicing when we get a chance to open a door to the vastness of saints, the opportunity to walk in two realms with our heart focused on heaven and our mind and body focused on seeking salvation from the One who offers it.

Father John Ouper