|Adoration of the Trinity by Albrecht Durer, 1511|
Today, November 1, is the Feast of All Saints. On this day we remember all of the saints who have walked the Pilgrim Pathway before us, living the Christian life in a God-pleasing manner.
The Collect for All Saints from the 2011 Book of Common Prayer
ALMIGHTY God, you have woven your disciples into one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son, Christ our Lord; Give us grace to follow your Saints in righteous and holy living, and to come to the joy beyond words which you have prepared for those who truly love you; Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and rules with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.
From AmericanCatholic.org's Saint of the Day e-mail:
The earliest certain observance of a feast in honor of all the saints is an early fourth-century commemoration of "all the martyrs." In the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface IV gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon, a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods. The pope rededicated the shrine as a Christian church. According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended "that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons" (On the Calculation of Time).
But the rededication of the Pantheon, like the earlier commemoration of all the martyrs, occurred in May. Many Eastern Churches still honor all the saints in the spring, either during the Easter season or immediately after Pentecost.
How the Western Church came to celebrate this feast, now recognized as a solemnity, in November is a puzzle to historians. The Anglo-Saxon theologian Alcuin observed the feast on November 1 in 800, as did his friend Arno, Bishop of Salzburg. Rome finally adopted that date in the ninth century.
Comment:This feast, first honored martyrs. Later, when Christians were free to worship according to their conscience, the Church acknowledged other paths to sanctity. In the early centuries the only criterion was popular acclaim, even when the bishop's approval became the final step in placing a commemoration on the calendar. The first papal canonization occurred in 993; the lengthy process now required to prove extraordinary sanctity took form in the last 500 years. Today's feast honors the obscure as well as the famous—the saints each of us have known.
Quote:“After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.... [One of the elders] said to me, ‘These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:9,14).
|All Saints of Scotland Icon|
Today is All Saints Day, a holy day recognized by the Catholic Church and, in various ways, by various Protestant denominations. Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate the Sunday of All Saints on the week after Pentecost.
Some Christian traditions focus on remembering special Christians on All Saints Day or bringing to mind believers who have died and gone to be with the Lord. This day offers a fine opportunity to thank God for those whose lives have honored him and made a difference to us. Yet, it's important to remember that the biblical sense of "saint" includes all of God's people, not just those who have excelled in discipleship. I thought it might be helpful for us to review what we learned about saints from Ephesians 1:1.
In the opening verse of this letter, Paul addresses the letter's recipients as "God's holy people." Traditionally, the Greek word hagioi, translated here as "God's holy people," is rendered "saints." Thus, the King James version reads, "To the saints which are at Ephesus." In fact, the English word "saint" comes from the Latin sanctus, which means "holy." So, saints are holy people, by definition.
But what does it mean to be a holy person, a saint? From a biblical perspective, something is holy when it is set apart for God and God's purposes. So, an animal to be sacrificed to the Lord is holy because it is designated for this special function. In Exodus 19, God set apart the Israelites as his own "treasured possession" (19:5). They would be a "holy nation" (19:6) through which God would make himself known to the world. In the New Testament, believers in Jesus Christ are referred to as "saints" or "holy people" because they have inherited Israel's divinely conferred status as people set apart by God for him and for his saving purposes.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you are a saint. You are a holy person. This does not necessarily say anything about your worthiness to receive this title or your exemplary lifestyle, however. I wouldn't recommend that you go around putting "Saint" in front of your name. Rather, you are a saint because God has chosen you to belong to him and his people. He has set you apart so that you might participate in his redeeming work in the world.
Remember, you are not a solo saint. There is no such thing from a biblical perspective. Rather, as a saint, you have been joined to the family of all saints, including those who live around the world and those who have gone to be with the Lord. Therefore, on All Saints Day, it is a perfect time to remember that God has made you special for him and his purposes, and that he has joined you into the eternal, worldwide fellowship of all his saints. Moreover, it's a good day to take seriously the fact that God wants to make himself known in this world through you as a member of the family of all saints.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you hear the word "saint" or "holy person," what do you envision? Do you believe that God has set you apart for himself and for his mission in the world? Who are some of the "saints" who have encouraged you in your faith? Why not thank God for them today?
PRAYER: Holy God, it is amazing to think that you have set me apart for you and for your mission. Thank you for choosing me to enter into a relationship with and to serve you in the world.Help me, dear Lord, to live out who I am as a saint. May I see my whole life in light of the fact that you have set me apart for you. May I live distinctively, reflecting your presence and values in all that I do. And may I do so as part of your family of saints.
Thank you, gracious God, for those saints who have meant so much to my discipleship. I thank you for those I have never met, like the Apostle Paul, or J. S. Bach, or C. S. Lewis. And I thank you for those who have nurtured me in a personal way, for my parents and grandparents, for my Sunday School teachers and youth leaders, for my pastors and mentors. Thank you, dear Lord, for these wonderful saints! Amen.
So as we focus on the amazing men and women of the Faith, those who are now the "great cloud of witnesses" who cheer us onward as we run the Race, may we look to His Holy Word which encourages and helps us:
Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.May we indeed run the Race for God's glory as so many of his Saints have done for the past two thousand years!!
Wishing you a blessed remembrance of All Saints,