All Saints Day

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Crowd of Saints
Fra Angelico (15th Century), All Saints Day

Although in the New Testament "saints" refers to all Christians, the church soon gave special honour to the heroes of the faith, especially martyrs. So the word "saint"came to describe those who have become officially recognised by the church, who have in some measure been seen to fulfil their call to follow Christ. In the 17th century Jeremy Taylor wrote:

The memories of the saints are precious to God, and therefore they ought also to be so to us: and such persons, who serve God by holy living, industrious preaching, and religious dying, ought to have their names preserved in honour, and God be glorified in them, and their holy doctrines and lives published and imitated.

The setting aside of a special day to commemorate all saints, whether known or unknown, has a complex and rather confused history. A feast in honour of "the martyrs of the whole world" was kept in the late 3rd century in the east, and by the late 4th century there were references to such a day on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The extension of the feast to include all the saints and its observance on 1 November emerged some time in the 8th century. The feast allows us to express our sense of communion with all those who have gone before us, whether known or unknown, whose actions have proclaimed their faith in Christ.

We suggest you attend a church service today or tomorrow and share Communion with fellow Christians.