For All the Saints – Thomas Traherne

With the last couple of weeks’ focus on martyrs and martyrdom, it might seem that sainthood has something to do with the colossal impact of ones actions (or even one’s death) during or immediately adjacent to ones life. That is, whether the saint survives the action or not, impact is measured immediately. This seems to apply to only to those who pay the ultimate price for their deeds, but those who minister or teach or otherwise affect immediate change in the lives of those they are called to serve.
Today’s saint, Thomas Traherne, bucks this trend.
Traherne lived during the 17th century in England and falls into the broad category of well-educated non-aristocrats that also took Holy Orders (i.e. Became priests) despite not ever making much of an impact on parish life or ministry. He was also a poet and largely considered to be one of the members of the broad category of “metaphysical” poets of his era.
Traherne’s poetry was not well received or reviewed during his lifetime. In fact, much of it faded into obscurity during the years after his death, yielding in the public imagination to new modes and weightier exemplars of the metaphysical style. (As an aside, I wonder whether or not someone will write a similar sentence about my blogging exploits 400 years after my death.)
It was not until Traherne’s writings were rediscovered nearly two centuries after his passing that people began to realize their great value. Where Traherne had not made is mark on the poetic art form of his day, he had succeeded in expressing a theological voice largely through poems that were un-published while he was alive. Deep wisdom about the nature of God and his love for the created order are present in works that don’t necessarily fit the mold of Waddell appreciated poetry – fragmentary manuscripts containing bounteous insights.
So, Traherne’s legacy leave us with a challenging question about our won lives of faith and the impact of our witness. Namely, “What seemingly insignificant thing are you working on today that will pay of exponentially later?” I know, it’s kind of a silly question, but it’s worth pondering.

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