All Saints, celebrated on 1st November, marks the beginning of All Saintstide, which lasts until the Festival of Christ the King on the Sunday before Advent. The season marks the closing of the ‘liturgical year’, i.e. the final season of the church year, which begins anew on Advent.
Saints are traditionally thought of as those people in whom we see the grace of God. For many this means St This or Saint That, and of course, those individuals (such as St John or St Paul etc.) are wonderful examples to everyone who seeks to follow as a disciple of Christ. Their works, their teaching and their love for humanity marks them out as worthy of celebration. But our faith teaches that we are all saints, each of us seeking a way to God, and each of us, in our faith and in our discipleship, worthy of recognition. And so, All Saints is a day to acknowledge and reflect upon the lives of all who comprise the body of Christ. “We are all one body because we all share one bread” we declare at the Holy Communion. We are all saints, and we all seek to live a righteous life. We all struggle, and we all are marked with failings, but our intentions are to seek Christ and to be with God.
The day after All Saints is celebrated as All Souls Day, during which we remember those who have died, mourn their loss in this earthly realm, and commend them in faith to God. Typically, churches mark this day with a service of remembrance, when all those who have lost loved ones in the previous year are invited back to church to maybe say a prayer, light a candle or mark this passing in some solemn, significant, and hopeful manner. At St John’s this is a very peaceful, poignant and valued time of worship. It is a time of renewed fellowship, and a moment for those who have lost to share with others. Others also attend to remember loved ones who may have died many years before. The names of the deceased are read out, hymns are sung and prayers are said.
Christ the King
All Saintstide concludes with the festival of Christ the King, on the last Sunday before Advent Sunday. The liturgical year begins with Advent, and the hope for the coming Messiah of Jesus Christ, and ends with the celebration that Christ is King of all. The year ends with celebration, but then we are back once more to a time of preparation and contemplation on how we can still find ways to better follow Christ.