For reasons at are, alas, the subject of a future post, I’m thinking about Bishop Jeremy Taylor today even though his feast day was last Sunday.
Jeremy Taylor, Bishop and Theologian, lived and died during the 17th century in England and holds a certain though ultimately obscure importance among Christians of the Anglican tradition for his contributions to the life of our church and his role in the history of the English Reformation. I don’t say of this to belittle the memory of Bishop Taylor or to undercut the validity of his Sainthood. To the contrary, I mention his lack of cultural currency to forgive us for wondering “Jeremy who?” and to remind us that worldly fame and an notoriety are not prerequisites for being a christian hero. Everyone, remembered, memorable or otherwise can make an heroic contribution to the faith.
Apart from his role, as a loyalist, in the English Civil War, Taylor is most remembered for his writings on death and dying. His mid-17th century work, Holy Living and Holy Dying has been a resource for generations of (mostly English or English-speaking) Christians as they have pondered the meaning of life through the lens of life’s ending. “Make us, we beseech thee, deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life,” Taylor writes in a prayer that was ultimately included in the Book of Common Prayer, suggesting, later in the same prayer, that such is the foundation of “the confidence of the reasonable, religious and Holy Hope.” Oh, did, I mention he was an expressive writer, too?
This past Saturday, I had the privilege of preaching at the funeral of a friend. Though I had not kept up with her through her declining years, her death was not much of a surprise to me. It was as much a relief from suffering as anything. It was a death for which she had long prepared. and one that I believe she faced with the kind of confidence and hope that Taylor suggests. In this way my friend provided, by example, the same kind of heroic witness that Jeremy Taylor provides in his words; a model for Godly living that finds meaning, at least in part, in Godly dying. Such is the witness of the Saints.
What is a Saint?
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