Whate'er He Send
Yours truly has scratched his head for several years now, trying to find the secret meaning of the fact that the feast of St. Michael and All Angels is also National Coffee Day, September 29. Since angels are essentially incorporeal, it is a deep mystery why they would need a cup of java to get going in the morning. Gabriel, for instance, did not ask Mary if she’d like to share with him a low-fat latte before telling her she would conceive the Son of God.
Secular time in our part of the world is increasingly separated from sacred time; the world’s calendar takes little notice of the church’s. There is no evidence that the anonymous geniuses who came up with National Coffee Day took any notice that it was the feast of the holy angels.
Susan and I were married on September 29 precisely because it was the feast of the angels. Although it was inconvenient to secular schedules—a wedding on a Friday at 6 p.m.—we said with smiles that we didn’t want Saturday because “Saturday isn’t the feast of St. Michael and All Angels!” We wanted sacred time to trump secular time in our marriage.
We sang one of the angel hymns at our wedding: “Christ, the fair glory of the holy angels.” Its theme is that we mortals cannot properly praise God without assistance from the angels, whom we ask God to send to “help us to praise thee.”
Other angel hymns are clear that praise of God is to be given at all times and in all places, regardless of what those times and places are. “Ye holy angels bright,” which was the ultimate hymn in the 1940 Hymnal, brings this out in two stanzas. One of them, speaking of God’s action throughout our lives, says:
Take what he gives.
And praise him still, through good or ill,
Who ever lives.
God gives, this seems to say, both good and ill; everything comes from God. Take it, whatever it is, “and praise him still.” And in another stanza:
Let all thy days
Till life shall end, whate’er he send,
Be filled with praise.
Whatever God sends, our days should be filled with praise.
. . . Including, I suppose, praise for coffee.
Out & About. This Sunday, October 8, I am to preach at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Dallas. The services are at 9 a.m. (with organ) and 11:15 a.m. (with guitar).
The evening of that same Sunday, October 8, the Good Books & Good Talk seminar will discuss Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. Anyone who reads the novel is welcome to the conversation, from 5 to 6:30 p.m.; others are welcome to come and listen. This seminar is also at St. Matthew’s: from the parking lot, walk around the church doors to the entrance for the Great Hall.
The following Sunday, October 15, also at 5 p.m., I will offer the fall theology lecture, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral. My topic is “Divine Distinctions.” There will be time for questions and then a reception.