Nov 1 – Solemnity of All Saints
All Saints’ Day is celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In terms of Roman Catholic theology, the feast commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven. The beatific vision is the eternal and direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness and blessedness. St. Thomas Aquinas defined the beatific vision as the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.
The origin of this feast as celebrated in the West dates to 13 May 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedication Sanctae mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.
The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s for the relics “of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world”, with the day moved to Nov 1.
- – Wikipedia
I, John, saw another angel rising where the sun rises, carrying the seal of the living God; he called in a powerful voice to the four angels whose duty was to devastate land and sea, ‘Wait before you do any damage on land or at sea or to the trees, until we have put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’ Then I heard how many were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, out of all the tribes of Israel.
After that I saw a huge number, impossible to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. They shouted aloud, ‘Victory to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels who were standing in a circle round the throne, surrounding the elders and the four animals, prostrated themselves before the throne, and touched the ground with their foreheads, worshipping God with these words, ‘Amen. Praise and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honour and power and strength to our God for ever and ever. Amen.’
One of the elders then spoke, and asked me, ‘Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?’ I answered him, ‘You can tell me, my lord.’ Then he said, ‘These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.’
1 John 3:1-3
Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are. Because the world refused to acknowledge him, therefore it does not acknowledge us.
My dear people, we are already the children of God but what we are to be in the future has not yet been revealed; all we know is, that when it is revealed we shall be like him because we shall see him as he really is. Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.
Seeing the crowds, Jesus went up the hill. There he sat down and was joined by his disciples. Then he began to speak. This is what he taught them:
‘How happy are the poor in spirit; theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Happy the gentle: they shall have the earth for their heritage.
Happy those who mourn: they shall be comforted.
Happy those who hunger and thirst for what is right: they shall be satisfied.
Happy the merciful: they shall have mercy shown them.
Happy the pure in heart: they shall see God.
Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God.
Happy those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
‘Happy are you when people abuse you and persecute you and speak all kinds of calumny against you on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.’
“And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”
When reflecting upon today’s readings, one thing immediately comes to mind, especially when thinking of All Saints. Are we included? Those of us still trying, still struggling, still (hopefully) fighting.
Church militants! That’s what we are supposed to be. Then I think of famous depictions of the supper of the lamb, and it always shows an opening in the ground where there is fire, but it isn’t hell; it represents our brothers and sisters in purgatory. And above or around the altar, these paintings usually show many figures in white robes and angels.
So this is our church, not just the canonised saints but those journeying to heaven, and us. Church Militant, Church Triumphant and Church Suffering. But how do we get from here, to suffering, then to triumphant. I feel like the last line of the first and second readings gives us the decision to make and the Gospel tells us how. The end of the first and second reading says: “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” — Rv 7:14 & “And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” — 1 Jn 3:3
In particular, St John says, “THEY have washed their robes” and “purify THEMSELVES”. Therefore the ball is in our court. If we choose to wash our robes or purify ourselves, then we must live out the Gospel; in particular, the Beatitudes as spelt out in the Gospels, is something we also have a choice in.
It is an oft-repeated cliche in our faith, “God is a gentleman”, he won’t force us to love him. Therein lies our choice, our ability to choose. If we choose the path of Lucifer, follow him we shall; if we choose the path of Christ, then unless we are extremely Holy, we shall enter into the Church Suffering (purgatory) phase, and then to the Church Triumphant for all eternity and, if those depictions of the heavenly banquet are remotely accurate, I can’t wait. I love to recall how St Thomas Aquinas was given a glimpse of Heaven and stopped writing, as good as he was, for, as he said, “all I have written is nothing”. Nothing compared to the beauty he witnessed. Here’s to sainthood!
(Today’s OXYGEN by Daryl De Payva)
Prayer: Pray for us all you Holy men and women of God, they we may persevere in this race to make it to the gates of the kingdom, where we may live forever and ever.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for the great cloud of witnesses to show us that holiness is possible.