On All Saints’ Day the Church celebrates the communion of saints – the whole family of God, the living and the dead, those whom we love and those whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament, prayer, and praise.
Many individual holy days recall to us specific lives led in cumulative graciousness, the impossibly heroic acts of noble martyrs, the often remote brilliance of some of our scholar bishops, or the transfigured men and women who kept intimate company with Our Lord, the apostles and the martyrs. We know them, and we celebrate their lives. All Saints’ Day gives us permission to remember all those in our lives who may never have feast days of their own: the almost worn-away names on a stone memorial tablet to those who fought for their country, doctors and nurses who gave their lives battling disease, men and women of every profession who sacrifice their lives in the line of duty and who are remembered on tablet, plaque, and crumbling paper – or perhaps only in a few hearts. We remember, too, all those, less heroic but nonetheless steadfast in their good works, in their love of God and fellow human.
One of the lessons often associated with All Saints’ Day is Ecclesiasticus 44, which includes these lines:
Some of them have left behind a name, so that others declare their praise.
But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.
But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
their glory will never be blotted out.
Their bodies are buried in peace, but their name lives on generation after generation.
Text adapted from Anglicans Online
Image fromPeshawar (photo no longer available)