This past Monday was All Saints Day. For many the day came and went after the big celebration of “All Hallow’s Eve”, or Halloween as we know it. While history has recognized All Saints Day as the bigger of the two days, Halloween has been stripped of its spirituality and returned to a time of dress up and candy grabbing. While Halloween’s origins were not originally Christian, eventually the day was tied directly to All Saints Day. It was celebrated by the Church on November 1st and was a day to prepare for All Saints. Nonetheless, the pendulum has swung back in the secular direction. And it appears to have done so because we have lost sight as to the importance and meaning of All Saints Day.
Such is the case because a growing number of churches do not even recognize All Saint’s Day anymore. While some have thought it to be a dreary day celebrating the dead, others have accused the Church of venerating or worshipping human beings. Many churches in fact do not recognize any saints whatsoever. The origins of such feelings can be traced back to Protestant and Catholic debate over praying to the saints, particularly when it came to helping loved ones in Purgatory. Protestants rejected the notion of Purgatory; and as such, many churches neglected recognizing saints.
And yet, there were many who found All Saints Day to be a powerful moment of Grace. John Wesley, though he encouraged individuals not to “invoke the saints” in prayer, called All Saints Day a “festival I truly love.” It was a celebration he looked forward to each year. He, along with many other Christians, didn’t see the celebration of All Saints Day as a time of veneration or worship of the saints. Rather, he saw it as a time to celebrate the transformative power of grace.
Laurence Hull Stookey, in his book, Calendar, writes, “To celebrate All Saints Day is nothing other than to celebrate the transformative power and grace of Jesus. One does not become a saint by their own determination but by the grace and power of God.” Saints aren’t saints because they were so perfect in deed and action. Saints reflect the glory of God because God has been active in their lives. I imagine there have been moments in your life when you have witnessed another person love sacrificially or offer grace and mercy where you’ve come to see it as a holy moment. Such was not accomplished because that person was “great.” It was accomplished because God was at work in their lives. Thus, to celebrate All Saints Day is to celebrate the real working of God’s presence in the lives of humanity.
This Sunday we will remember the saints who have passed this year as well as take time to remember those who have passed beyond this year. Many of them were not perfect, but they evidenced the grace of God in their lives. As such, they were holy. Moreover, may it encourage us to rely on the grace of God to transform our lives as well!
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