Origins of All Saints’ Day

With roots dating back some 2000 years to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in), the Catholic Church (ca. 1000 AD) slowly supplanted this pagan festival with All-hallows or All-hallowmas (All Saints’ Day). The evening leading up to All-hallows was called All-Hallows-Eve (eventually Halloween). As in olden days, people continue to dress up in costumes and today a quarter of all the candy sold in the US is sold on Halloween. For us here in the church, All Saints’ Day is when we recognize those who have died in our church over the past year and celebrate the many ways in which they have blessed us. Our belief is that one day all the saints, those who have died professing the Christian faith, will gather around the throne of God and praise God for His Glory, or, at least, this is the story we read about in the Book of Revelations (7:9-17). A “great multitude that no one could count” from every nation under heaven and from all peoples throughout time will be robed in white, waving palm branches, and singing praises to “the Lamb,” which is Jesus Christ. These are described as “those who have come through the great ordeal” (7:14). The “great ordeal.” What a curious expression. Commentators provide various answers to who these people are. Some hold it refers to the martyrs throughout history who suffered and died for their faith. Other argue it refers to the people living when this book was written to give them hope while living under Roman oppression. But I think it simply refers to all who have lived and kept the faith: life itself is “the great ordeal.” With life comes choices, trials, mistakes, illness and disease, and lastly death. Living life in faith and passing through death in hope of the resurrection in Christ is “the great ordeal.” Today we celebrate those saints among us who have made this passage and from their example we find hope to continue in the faith. Join us this Sunday at 11:00 in-person or on-line via Facebook Live as we celebrate All Saints Day and I preach on “The Great Ordeal.”

Revelations 7:13-14:  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “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.”