Happy All Saints Day!
It’s a day that we celebrate the saints — both the ones that we know and the ones that we don’t — and ask them for them to pray for us. After all, God is not the God of the Dead, but rather the God of the Living. And His servants that faithfully served Him as part of the Body of Christ here on Earth are now in Heaven, praying for us.
There are lots of cool artworks depicting a lot of saints, but I think this is one of my favorites:
Doesn’t it look like a party?!
It’s a picture of the Coronation of the Virgin! As in many of these artworks, Mary is being crowned as Queen of Heaven by the Holy Trinity who are shown in their full glory. But, while clearly the Coronation is the main purpose of the artwork, there are so many saints in Heaven that have come to the party, it’s hard not to be distracted by all the cool people.
Plus! Many of the saints have various ways of distinguishing them. So, for example, St. Peter has his keys. Adam and Eve are in their fig leaves. St. Jerome has his tamed lion. Abraham has his knife and Isaac has his bundle of sticks on his back. St. Luke has his ox. King David has his harp. St. John the Baptist has his staff made out of reeds, with a lamb right beside him. Moses has his tablets. St. Lawrence with a stone and palm. Jonah has his monstrous fish. And so on, so on!
And it’s wonderful because everybody is distinctly themselves… and yet they are still in Heaven glorifying God!
And, honestly, that’s a bit of a relief. One of the criticisms that I’ve seen lobbed at the Christian concept of Heaven is that it would be boring for people to spend an eternity singing praises to God. These critics often paint a picture where we lose our own quirks and individuality and become just mindless drones in some weird cult where we have to sing… or else. And these critics often proclaim that they would rather retain their individuality and go to Hell than conform to God’s rigid rules that seek only to enslave.
But, in these pieces of art, in which artists envision Heaven, we see very clearly that this sort of criticism is ridiculous. Just consider this: here on Earth, we are all individuals and we all glorify God in a variety of ways. Why wouldn’t Heaven be similar? To be in Heaven is to be with God in a community of people that we love who take care of those who come to them for help.
And so, artists depict these saints, not as generic faces, but as real people who did real things to glorify God.
Which it makes it kind of interesting to note the contrast of the way that so many artists depict the people being tormented in Hell — they are just a blob of bodies being tormented for all of eternity by a variety of terrifying demons. It is only in the pictures of Heaven in which people retain their individuality!
Anyway! May we look up to Heaven with hope and proclaim the glory of God, along with all the angels and saints! And may all the saints pray for us!