All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallows' Day, is a day Christians honor all the saints from our history. This festival comes from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between those who have gone before us in Heaven and those of us on Earth. All Saints Day is a national holiday relating to giving God earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of His saints and remembering those who were well-known and those who were not. Those individuals throughout Christian history are celebrated on All Saints Day, such as Peter the Apostle and Charles Wesley. Those individuals who have personally guided Christians to their faith in Jesus, such as a relative or a friend are also celebrated.
Would it surprise you to know that Halloween started as a Christian celebration? Hallow, in Old English, means "holy" or "sacred." So, Halloween simply means the evening of holy persons. It refers to the night before All Saints Day. This would be a night families would prepare to celebrate and honor those who had died.
All Saints Day started when the Roman Empire persecuted Christians. So many martyrs died for their faith that the Church set aside special days to honor them. The pope removed statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to "all saints" who had died from Roman persecution in the first 300 years after Christ. There were too many martyrs for each to be given their own day so they were lumped together into one day. All Saints Day was changed by Pope Gregory III to November 1st.
In the 10th century, Abbot Odela of the Cluny monastery added November 2nd as All Souls Day not only to honor the martyrs but all Christians who had died. Who are your favorite heroes in Christian history? Can you think of any whose example has inspired you? Why not use All Saints Day to think of and give thanks for as many Christians from the past as you can remember, whether they are famous or not, especially if their lives and teaching contributed something to yours.
The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says that All Saints Day stands for "the unity of Christians of all ages, countries, and races in Christ, and the perfection of that unity in heaven." The Bible doesn't tell us to pray to the saints or through the saints, instead, we think of our connectedness to past saints and find inspiration in their stories of God's faithfulness. Hebrews 11 gives examples of the great cloud of witnesses whose lives tell of God's unfailing love and grace. These saints speak from the past and are whispering at this moment, "God is faithful."
The hymn, "For All the Saints" encourages us to look back through the years of Christian history and think of the millions now enjoying rest and salvation in the presence of God. It's also meant to provide encouragement to believers here and now to press on, looking forward to the glorious day.
Join us this Sunday as we celebrate "our saints" who have gone on before us.
Christian Education Coordinator