November 1st is All Saints’ Day, and to be honest I almost forgot. There is so much happening at the moment that All Saints Day hardly registered for me. Which is a shame as remembering those who gone before, and those who continue to impact our lives is very important.
The Episcopal Church website explains:
We step aside from the flow of the propers and celebrate all the saints. We stop. We notice, We are surrounded by a flock of witnesses in our midst – many who have gone before us, some we are just now releasing, and still more with a full life ahead of them.
I cannot think about All Saints Day without reading the words of Hebrews 12:1,2 referenced here.
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. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
This is celebration observed by Christians in many countries and many traditions. In Belgium, Hungary and Italy people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In other parts of Europe, it is customary to light candles on top of visiting graves of deceased relatives. It is also observed in parts of Asia, such as the Philippines, where people visit graves of deceased relatives and clean or repair them. They also lay flowers on the graves and light candles. In France church services in memory of all the saints are held on November 1 but by the evening the focus turns towards the dead. Cemeteries everywhere are crowded with people who come to clean and decorate family graves.
I love the Anglican tradition of renewing our baptismal vows on this day. Reminding ourselves of the journey we have taken personally is a good place to start in remembering the saints of God. In this tradition, all baptized Christians, living and dead known and unknown are considered saints of God. This means everyone including ourselves. Our church also gives us the opportunity to write the names of loved ones who have died on ribbons that decorate the church at the All Saints service. Remembering those who have gone before is an important and faith strengthening exercise.
So as you get ready for All Saints Day think about your own faith journey. Remember the faithfulness of God in your past. Notice the movement of God in the present. Think about your hopes and dreams for the future. Get ready to celebrate all that you are as a saint of God. And pray this prayer with me:
God we are surrounded by a cloud
Faithful witnesses who have gone before
Those who have loved where we would have hated
Those who have healed where we would have hurt
Those who have spoken out when we would have remained silent
God may we walk in their footsteps
Learning courage from their sacrifice
Gaining strength from their faithfulness
May we learn to give so that others may receive
May we learn to love so that others may be set free
May we learn to die to ourselves so that others might live
God may we join that cloud of faithful witnesses
Treading paths of loving obedience
Leaving footprints that others desire to walk in
God may we too lead kingdom lives