All Saints and All Souls . . . and Us

All Saints Day, 2014

Do any of you know why October 31 is called ‘Hallowe’en’?

Just like the day before Christmas is called ‘Christmas Eve’, the day before ‘All Hallows Day’ or what we now call ‘All Saints Day’ is called ‘All Hallows Eve’, shortened to ‘Hallowe’en’.

So, what is this holy church day we celebrate today? ‘All Hallowed Souls’ or ‘All Saints Day’ and ‘All Souls Day’. It is the day we honor those who have died, the day we remember all our loved ones, as well as the saints of the church.

‘All Saints Day’ originated in Europe as the Feast of Samhain (saw-win), a pagan celebration marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. It was a joyous occasion of remembrance and thanks for those who once lived on earth, but now are loved as ‘saints’ in the spirit world beyond. People dressed in costumes, went door-to-door begging for food (sound familiar?), and received Soul Cakes as gifts for the spirits of the dead. Feasts were held with empty seats reserved at the table for the spirits of the dead. The fields were cleared and big bonfires lit to purify the earth. People visited the graves of their ancestors (much like we used to do on Memorial Day).

Always in need of fun (and perhaps blasphemy!), common people began to envision the night before All Saints Day as ‘All Hallowed Eve’ – with ghosts and goblins roaming the earth.

But, instead of fearsome spooks and skeletons, this three-day celebration marks a loving and good time, regardless of what you may believe about the life after this one. It is time to remember and celebrate those lives, famous or not, who have gone before us.

When we think of ‘saints’ there comes to mind a picture of a person in ancient costume with a halo around their head shown on a stained-glass window. But that’s not exactly correct either; the Bible teaches that all who trust in Jesus and try to do His work on earth are ‘saints’.

Saintliness means conveying the love of God to people. A saint is one who displays goodness and tries to live according to Jesus’ commandments. The saint is kind, forgiving, charitable, always living for others, always doing for others.

Saints include the extraordinary and the ordinary, the common as well as the uncommon, the unnamed cloud of witnesses, the living as well as the dead. In fact, one need not die to be a ‘saint.’

Saints are agents of change – making good things happen instead of bad. Regardless of whether we take part or not, we must realize that change will take place. Tomorrow always brings new challenges, problems, opportunities so will we fight for change, ignore it, or be a part of the improvement and solution?

Will we be a saint?

Who are your saints (your mother, teachers, boss, child, neighbor)? Who would you remember, living and dead, in your life on All Saints Day? Who are the folks, living or dead, who you think look to as examples in your daily life? Take a few minutes and recall those people who have had a significant impact on your life.

(Pause)

And how about those ‘saints’ of today?

The Holy Spirit (the Spirit of God), working with, among, and in us, enables the saint in us to recognize, face, and survive difficulties. Saints are able to look life in the face, without flinching. We need saints in today’s world – saints who will go into the world showing the good news of Jesus Christ every day!

To be a saint is to

    • listen to someone’s troubles,
    • to share what you have,
    • to speak kindly to the sorrowful,
    • to forgive the unforgivable

Someone who gives others the ‘Good News’ of the love, hope and salvation of the life of Jesus.

And so we thank God for those brave men and women down the years who have been faithful unto death in making known the Gospel and the family of God. And we, too, if we love Jesus, belong to that same family of God. We’re not likely to be martyred, but as followers of Jesus we’re called to be faithful to Him in our daily living, at school, at home and at work, and draw inspiration from the saints who have gone before us.

In remembering the saints in our lives, let us vow to be modern-day saints to those around us.

Let us pray:

    Living God, we thank you for the gift of life eternal, and for all those who having served you well, now rest from their labours. We thank you for all the saints remembered and forgotten, for those dear souls most precious to us. Today we give thanks for those who during the last twelve months have died and entered into glory. We bless you for their life and love, and rejoice for them.

    God of Jesus and our God, mindful of all those souls who have gone on ahead of us. Teach us to follow their example to the best of our ability; to feed the poor in body or spirit; to support and comfort the mourners; to encourage the meek and stand with them in crises; to affirm those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; to cherish and learn from the merciful; to be humbled by, and stand with, the peacemakers.

    Let us clearly recognize what it means to be the children of God, and to know we are to be your saints simply by the call and the healing holiness of Christ Jesus our Saviour.

    Amen!

For Those Who Walked With Us
For those who walked with us,
this is a prayer.

For those who have gone ahead,
this is a blessing.

For those who touched and tended us, who lingered with us while they lived,
this is a thanksgiving.

For those who journey still with us in the shadows of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams,
this is a benediction.

Let us pray the prayer our Lord taught us:

    Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.

    Amen.

 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 2 November 2014

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