All Saints’ Day
In the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, we follow rubrics (think “stage directions.”) Stand here, bow here, recite these words. “All things are done in order,” and, if the order is sufficiently clear and straightforward, the entire affair may suggest “balance, restraint, moderation, [and] measure” (Preface to the First Prayer Book; Preface to Anglicanism, More and Cross). Liturgy is essentially formal and prescribed.
However, below the surface, there is always or always ought to be a sense of divine power and a range of corresponding human emotions. Are we not rightly moved, on this day, to think of all the saints who have gone before us, who have given us examples of virtuous and godly living, who spur us on in the faith? And are we not perhaps even more deeply moved to consider the saints of God whom we have known and loved and who rest in that peace which passes all understanding? Can we think of parents and brothers and sisters and friends departed without both a sense of loss and hope? All liturgy, but this one especially, should open before us the reality of God and the depth of our love for the mystical body of Christ.
The psalmist calls us to “Look upon [God] and be radiant” (Ps. 34:5). Look upon God and those who, on a wavelength we cannot yet know or imagine, are with God in radiant glory, in a blaze of light so intense that it seems to darken the mid-day sun, as one noon-day hymn suggests [Cuius luce clarissima tenebricat meridies]. Adjusting our eye to divine glory, we see “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands . . . And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God, singing, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen’’ (Rev. 7:9-12). We see gathered around the throne the children of God who have come out of a great ordeal, a time of testing, and who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. We see the fellowship of the baptized.
We are the children of God, and those we have known and loved are the children of God. “See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we know is this; when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (I John 3:1-2). We are God’s children now. Our departed loved ones see God yet more deeply — as he is — and see themselves with a deeper understanding — you will be revealed with him in his glory — and, in communion with the hosts of heaven, sing in endless praise.
God has promised a kingdom, a place of comfort, a new heaven and a new earth, righteousness and mercy, a reward in heaven (Matt. 5:1-12). God has promised shelter and a good shepherd, springs of water, and the end of tears (Rev. 7:15-17). God cannot lie and will give all these good things.
The great saints of God are before the throne. Your beloved relatives and friends are before the throne, where God is revealed, and human nature is perfected. Rejoice in this hope!
Look It Up: The collect.
Think About It: Ineffable joys.