From the Rector’s Desk…
The Feast of All Saints, which falls on Nov. 1 in our calendar, has been observed in Eastern Christianity since the fourth century. It was established in the West when the Pantheon in Rome was consecrated in A.D. 609 and dedicated to the Blessèd Virgin Mary and all the martyrs.
There was a saying that made the round in the early church: “The Blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the Church” The Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, shows us how acutely aware the early Church was, under persecution, of the presence and prayers of those who had given their lives in witness to the gospel. (Revelation 6. 9-11) Over time, the Feast of All Saints became the occasion for commemorating and celebrating the witness of so many holy men and women whose manner of life truly conformed to the life of the Gospel, and in whom the power of Jesus’ Resurrection was extraordinarily manifest.
Why remember the saints? In a word, this belongs to the fullness of the catholic faith.
The Collect for All Saints Day speaks of “rejoicing their fellowship.” It’s a remarkable claim. We see that the Christian fellowship transcends both space and time, and that the saints are not merely ” dead Christians,” but are very much present to us and with us in the Church. We, along with all the saints, are participants in the Communion of Love that is the Holy Trinity.
The Collect also speaks about “following their example.” As someone said to me this week, the saints provide both “inspiration” and “aspiration!” We get the measure of our present problems only when we compare them with what our predecessors had to encounter. We also tend to think that holiness is out of the range of the ordinary Christian. Then we find that so many of the saints were ordinary people who made an extraordinary response to the call of God. Their experience is the treasure upon which we can draw to face our own situation. So too are their prayers. If we believe that death is not the end of life, then it is not the end of love. So it is logical to think that those who cared so deeply for the truth of God and for their mortal companions on the earth will go on doing so beyond the grave and gate of death, in “one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of Christ.” The Saints are truly the friends and servants of the Lord Jesus, who will accompany Him when He comes in glory to judge the Living and the Dead. (1 Thessalonians 3.13).
St. Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.” ( 2 Cor. 7.1). This is the theme and inspiration for our All Saints Prayer Vigil at St. Mary’s on Tuesday: a physical, spiritual, mental, emotional and relational detox! Let me encourage you to join us for all or part of the day, if not in body then “in spirit.” The texts for prayer and meditation are as follows:
Noon Day Prayer: Matthew 18.15-22.