I knew, of course, that yesterday was Halloween, i.e. “All Hallows’ Eve” but it’s still a bit of a shock this morning to wake up in November! Suddenly the trees are bare and the temperature outside is so low that one can hardly hold on any more to the season of autumn. It’s rather ironic that we celebrate many of our grandest holidays during the darkest time of the year. Perhaps it’s necessary that it be that way to keep us positive through the darkness. We begin today in Christianity with the feast of All Saints.
If we ask what constitutes “sainthood” we can expect many different answers. Dictionary definitions abound, some of which pose further questions like: Are Christians saints after they die or while they are still living? There is an answer to that for Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians whose Churches “require certain procedures before people can be officially named saints; this procedure is called canonization.” But there are two notes on the internet that make me happiest.
- A statement: Saint is the French word for “holy.”
- A question: How does the Bible define a saint?
If we look at today’s lectionary texts, each of the readings gives us an image that might move one to deeper pondering on the above question. The vision in the Book of Revelation has shining images of “a great multitude, wearing white robes and carrying palm branches in their hands…those who have survived the time of great distress…” (Ch. 7). Psalm 24 speaks of the people “who long to see God’s face, those whose hands are sinless and whose hearts are clean, who desire not what is vain.” John’s first letter tells us that “we are God’s children now” and that when all is revealed “we shall be like God…” (1 JN 2).
I thought the choice of gospel passage for this holy day was brilliant when I read the chosen text: Matthew 5:1-12, known to us as The Beatitudes. Coming to embody the qualities of those who are blessed listed in this passage must surely qualify us as “sainted” or “holy.” Just to read them quickly won’t get us there. We truly need to allow them to penetrate the deepest cave of our hearts and then to shine out of us in love that is humble, merciful, peacemaking…reflecting the love of God.
So perhaps as we move into this new month we can make a new (or renewed) determination to be those saints that may not yet be formally recognized but who are already held as such in the heart of God.