This Sunday we will celebrate an ancient feast day of the Church, the Feast of All Saints. Also known as “All Hallows’ Day (from an Old English word for a saint or a “holy person”), the feast has been celebrated in the west on November 1 since the 700’s, thus making October 31 All Hallows’ Eve, or “Hallowe’en.” Our prayer book allows All Saints’ to be observed on the Sunday following November 1, but since the men will be away on retreat, we’re celebrating it ahead of time on October 29.
Originally the day was intended to honor martyrs of the Church who were anonymous and known to God alone, although today we commemorate many who were quite famous for their outstanding Christian conduct, service, and wisdom even during their lifetimes—James the Just (brother of Jesus), Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Janani Luwum of Uganda, C.S. Lewis of England, Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Florence Li Tim-Oi of Canada and China, and Óscar Romero of El Salvador, to name a few. We remember these saints as those raised up by God not only to serve him in “holiness and righteousness” in their own days, but also for our encouragement and instruction. As the Venerable Bede tells us, “The saints have left us footprints on the way home.”
All Saints’ is also one of four days designated to be particularly appropriate for baptisms, and this Sunday we will baptize Jude Flynn (son of Kayla Flynn, and grandson of Janice Flynn). One reason I love having baptisms on this particular feast day is that it reminds us of a surprising truth—Scripture refers to all followers of Jesus as “saints”! Paul often begins his letters by addressing his readers as “saints,” recognizing that the forgiveness, grace, and Spirit of God flowing through Jesus into our lives sets each of us apart as “holy ones.” We all are called and empowered to live lives revealing the Father’s holy, loving heart to this world.
So, we would not be wrong to address each other, young and old, as “saint”: “Good morning, Saint Meredyth. Why, hello, Saint Mike! Good to see you, Saint Ingrid. Right back at ya, Saint Chris. And you, too, Li’l Saint Dominique and Saint Mary!” The final verse of Sunday’s opening hymn describes our mutual sainthood simply:
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still;
the world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea,
in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea;
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.
Join the Communion of Saints this Sunday at 8am or 10:30am!
Your Pastor in Christ,