All Saints’ Day is a “principal feast” in the calendar of the Episcopal Church. It is one of the seven feast days when I bring out the incense—much to the dismay of a couple of you! Rightly, it should be celebrated on November 1st. But the prayer book allows churches that cannot adequately keep the feast on November 1st to celebrate it on the following Sunday. And so, here we are, gathered together to remember all God’s holy people: the official saints found in the volume Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the unofficial parish saints for whom we have prayed during the last 12 months.
Now, some parishes prefer to remember the unofficial saints on November 2nd, All Souls’ Day, in a “separate but equal” celebration. But I am firmly against making any such distinction. Pastorally, it may make sense, but theologically, not so much! So on this day, we celebrate the blessed Virgin Mary, St. John the Baptist, St. Peter, and St. Paul, as well as our own St. David A., St. Barbara J., and St. Margaret W.
In the Name of the Father, and of the ✠ Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today is All Saints’ Day, a “principal feast day” in the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church. And so, here we are, gathered together to commemorate all the saints. But what exactly do we mean my the word “saints”? In the early church, all baptized Christians were called saints. All were considered holy. All were considered set apart for God’s use. Only later did the term become limited to those who had lived lives of heroic sanctity and, most especially, those who had crowned their lives as martyrs to the faith. As a result of this change in connotation, the remembrance of the “unheroic” faithful was put off to the following day, the feast of All Faithful Departed, more commonly known as All Souls’ Day. Frankly, I prefer the earlier usage. I like to think of this day as a day to remember all the faithful of ages past, whether or not they were particularly “heroic” in their faith.
But this feast day is not just about looking backward. This day is also a day of looking forward. The prayer book designates this feast as one of four baptismal feasts, at which we dedicate new saints to God through Holy Baptism and at which we may optionally renew our own status as saints by solemnly reaffirming our baptismal vows. Truly, this is a day to remember all the saints—past, present, and yet to come.
Sunday Nov 1 – All Saints’ Day. Please join us for services at 8 a.m. or 10 a.m. (Choral Eucharist) at Incarnation Episcopal Church, 1750 29th Avenue, San Francisco, CA 04122. For more information visitwww.incarnationsf.org.