There has been an All Saints’ Day from at least the beginning of the 3rd century, and probably before that, from almost the beginning of the Church. All Saints’ Day was begun as a feast, not to honor human beings, but to honor God for his work of salvation and sanctification.
The term “saint” is widely used. People use it to refer to well-behaved children, kindly and gentle seniors, hard-workers in the church, anyone who has died and, specifically, to certain honored dead in the Church’s history.
In the Apostles’ Creed and a few other writings, the phrase “Communion of Saints” is used as a synonym for The Holy Christian (catholic or universal) Church. It is a reference to all believers in Christ; if you are a believing Christian, you are a saint.
There are saints in our midst right now also — people with great faith — an example for us all. Whenever someone of faith dies, I think about them the next time we come to the words in the Great Thanksgiving,
- “Therefore, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying …”
On All Saints’ Sunday, I recall the images of those who have gone before.
Occasionally, my eyes burn and tear. And there is an aching in my heart for those who no longer inhabit this earthly plain.
A saint, then, is only this: a human being who belongs to God, who has been set apart from the world by the Blood of Jesus Christ, shed on a cross and received in the Holy Communion. We are holy because of God’s action in our lives, or we are not. Every member of the Church in heaven is a saint; and every member of the Church on earth who is faithful to Jesus Christ, who puts his trust in Jesus Christ and in nothing else, not even in himself, is just as much a saint right now.
There is the beautiful image of God being with us, wiping away every tear from our eyes. In Revelations we heard:
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 21:4)
As we remember those who are longer with us, let us pray:
God, the generations rise and pass away before you. You are the strength of those who labour. You are the rest of the blessed dead. We rejoice in the company of your saints. We remember all who have lived in faith, all who have peacefully died, and especially those most dear to us who rest in you. Give us in time our portion with those who have trusted in you and striven to do your holy will. To your name, with the church on earth and the Church in heaven, we ascribe all honour and glory, now and forever. Amen.