Today, November 1, we celebrate All Saints Day. All Saints Day is a feast day in the church year that follows All Hallow’s Eve (October 31). All Saints Day offers an opportunity to remember all those saints who have gone before us in the faith and to celebrate the reality that we stand amidst a great cloud of witnesses.
The epistle to the Hebrews offers one of the most comprehensive examples of this in chapter 11, which traces the history of great people of faith who have gone before us. As the writer holds before us example after example of faith, he helps us see how their lives with God are examples to us in our daily living but also encouragement to keep going in the way of faith. Closing that great passage out, the author writes:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Not only does All Saints Day hold before us the people of faith from past times, it also offers an annual reminder of our connectedness as Christians today. In times of fracture or disunity, as well as in times of peace, All Saints Day reminds us that all who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation are brought together as one new community by faith in Him. It is in light of this that the Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians:
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:3-6)
Not only does All Saints Day lead us to look back to believers who have gone before us and around us to the believers we share communion with in Christ, but it also points us forward to the reality that we will one day gather around the throne of God. While we live here on earth, believers are spread throughout many times and places, but there will come a day when we will all be brought together into the eternal presence of the Lord. All Saints Day reminds us of that reality described in Revelation 7:
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation belongs to our God,
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:9-10)
Here is a traditional prayer often used for All Saints Day:
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical Body of your Son: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.