For All the Saints

“whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten…” (Ecclus. 44:10)

All Saints’ Day is included as one of the principal feasts in the church, and “may always be observed on the Sunday following November 1” (BCP, p. 15). The inspiring words of William Walsham How sung to the Ralph Vaughan Williams tune (Hymn 287) will begin many services on this Sunday. The scope of “For all the saints who from their labors rest” is appropriately broadened by Hymn 293: “You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in ships, or at tea.”

In order to move beyond sentimentality, we might also recall the comment by Richard Cardinal Cushing of the Archdiocese of Boston: “Saints are all right in heaven, but they are hell on earth.”

The scripture readings for the day provide rich resources. The text from Ecclesiasticus is a hymn to the common man: “Let us now praise … our [ancestors] in their generations” (44:1). “There are some who have no memorial” (44:9). “Their righteous deeds have not been forgotten” (44:10). “Their name lives to all generations” (44:14).

The second reading, from Revelation, paints a curious picture: “Who are these, clothed in white robes? … These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:13-14). Made them white in the (red) blood of the lamb? Yes, our pain, suffering, and repentance of our sins will do just that. This reading ends with a magnificent vision of the future: “For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (7: 17). Also see Isaiah 25:8.

Matthew’s version of the beatitudes, considered by many to be the heart of Jesus’ teaching and the foundation of Christian spirituality, can also be understood as very practical advice.

An illuminating translation of Matthew’s text will be found in The Message by Eugene H. Peterson (Navpress 2002): “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you” (5:4). “You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat” (5:6).

Look It Up

Additional references to the cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb are found in John 1:29 and 1 John 1:7

Think About It

Do you know any saints who would be just fine in heaven but are hell on earth? Might you be one of them?


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