Monday, November 1, 2010

Today is All Saints Day

All Saints Day is a rather nuanced holiday for Christians, depending on your global location and denomination. Eastern Christians celebrate the holiday during an entirely different season of the year so we will leave them to that. Western Christians join together to celebrate it on or near today but each denomination has a different understanding of just what “it” is.

Traditionally, most Catholics hold up the day in honor of dead saints who have achieved beautification (completed the process of becoming a saint by the church’s definition, which includes performing miracles from beyond the grave, etc. Incidentally they hold up tomorrow as All Soul’s Day to celebrate dead saints who have not achieved beautification yet). Some Catholics hold up the day to honor all dead Catholics who are in heaven (and reserve tomorrow for the dead in purgatory).

Because the definition of ‘saint’ in the Protestant denominations is generally widened to all Christians, the only variations between protestant congregations in the celebration is (1) whether the celebration is held in honor of dead and living saints or reserved for just our departed brethren and (2) whether the honor is observed strictly on Nov 1 or on a Sunday and if so which Sunday near Nov 1 (some celebrate the Sunday before; some the Sunday after).

Presbyterians celebrate the holiday the Sunday before Nov 1 (unless Nov1 falls on a Sunday) and is celebrated concurrently with Reformation Day (a day set aside to honor the leaders of the reformation).

Methodists celebrate the holiday the Sunday after Nov 1 and reserve celebration specifically for the saints that were in Jesus time (such as his mother or the disciples) or are mentioned in the bible (such as Paul) and also give prayers of remembrance for saints in their own congregation that have recently died.

As one who was raised Catholic, became a disciple in the Presbyterian Church and is now living out that discipleship in in Methodism you can imagine I’m a bit confused with regard to my observance of the holiday. Therefore, I’ve decided to mark today in honor of all our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ; especially those who are diligently laboring for Christ. I will take time to pray for our missionaries, our pastors and lay leaders and my fellow congregants. I will also respectfully observe moments of quiet reflection on those that were martyred for Christ in ages past or otherwise contributed greatly to the kingdom of God. I am not iconifying people per se, but celebrating their acts of faith (just as we all celebrate Abraham’s) for the glorious effects those acts had on the whole body of Christ. Whereas at Pentacost we celebrate the church as a body, today I am focused on individual acts of faith and the holy act of giving of oneself to God; that is the essence of sainthood. I celebrate that God calls us into relationship with him in this way and I celebrate (for the sake of God’s kingdom and the sake of their souls) all of the individuals that have stepped out in faith to enter into that relationship and go where God leads them.

For All the Saints
Earl Nelson
1864
 
For all the saints, who from their labours rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Apostles’ glorious company,
Who bearing forth the Cross o’er land and sea,
Shook all the mighty world, we sing to Thee:
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For the Evangelists, by whose blest word,
Like fourfold streams, the garden of the Lord,
Is fair and fruitful, be Thy Name adored.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
For Martyrs, who with rapture kindled eye,
Saw the bright crown descending from the sky,
And seeing, grasped it, Thee we glorify.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
O may Thy soldiers, faithful, true and bold,
Fight as the saints who nobly fought of old,
And win with them the victor’s crown of gold.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long,
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song,
And hearts are brave, again, and arms are strong.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
The golden evening brightens in the west;
Soon, soon to faithful warriors comes their rest;
Sweet is the calm of paradise the blessed.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.
Alleluia, Alleluia!
From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast,
Through gates of pearl streams in the countless host,
And singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost:
Alleluia, Alleluia!

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