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Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church, Linglestown, Pennsylvania, USA

 

November 1 - All Saints' Day

Scripture

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be His peoples, and God Himself will be with them; He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away." And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also He said, "Write this, for these things are trustworthy and true." Then He said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children."

Revelation 21.1-7

A History of the Day

The origins of this festival are uncertain. A festival commemorating all the martyrs for the faith may have been held as early as A.D. 359. From the fifth century in the Eastern church, All Saints was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. This has a certain logic to it, since the birthday of the church -- Pentecost -- has its parallel in the birthday of the saints -- their martyrdom. In the old maxim, the blood of the martyrs is (or waters) the seed of the church. By the seventh century the feast had been extended to include non-martyrs as well.

Somewhat later, the English church chose November 1 as the day for the celebration of All Saints. This may have originated in Gaul or Ireland (the Irish often assigned the first day of the month to important feasts). Moreover, in Celtic lands the mists and frosts of late autumn suggested the visitation and the presence of spirits and made the beginning of November a natural time to remember the departed.

In 835, Gregory IV officially transferred the feast to November 1, to occur after the harvest, so there would be sufficient food in Rome for the pilgrims.

Martin Luther chose the eve of All Saints' Day, October 31, to post his Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg because he wanted the crowds who would come to church on the following day to see them. As the anniversary of the posting of the theses came to be observed as Reformation Day, the ancient and universal celebration of all the saints came to be overshadowed in Lutheran circles, although All Saints' Day has been preserved on Lutheran calendars, and is often celebrated on the Sunday following November 1.

All Saints has developed into a festival memorializing those saints who have died (the Church Triumphant) and honoring those saints who now comprise the visible church (the Church Militant). Since, according to the New Testament, a saint is not a martyr only, but is a baptized person, this festival has evolved into a festival of the whole church of God.

-- From Festivals and Commemorations by Philip H. Pfatteicher

A Reflection

In a realm which bows to tangible security as once it bowed to stone idols, we (Christians) are the gamblers who stake all that we have on unproven supposition. In a culture that seeks its own gratification at any cost, that spends its produce and its people as though there were no tomorrow, we alone dare to live as though there is a tomorrow and more -- a place within which and a people with whom to share that tomorrow.

That is why we need the precious day of All Saints. For we know how hard it is. It is hard to look death in the face and say to death, "I know I shall see you again." But it is harder still to scan the flickering light of life's vitality in the face of a dying (loved one) and say, "I know I shall see you again."

-- from Brightest and Best
by Sam Portaro

Prayer

Almighty God, whose people are knit together in one holy Church, the body of Christ our Lord: grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you; through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. AMEN

-- Pastor Stickley