The morning after the sugar-crazed children of our neighborhoods run through the streets in costume, we wake up to a new month driven by holiday prepping: Thanksgiving is almost here! That means it’s almost Christmas! Then New Year’s Eve! It’s practically 2018 already.
Let’s slow down. Even before we get to Advent, the Church’s season of waiting in darkness and quiet for the birth of Christ on Christmas, we can sink deeper into a special feast day: All Saints’ Day.
In our culture, November is a time for gratitude, for gathering with family and friends, and for giving to others. But for many, it quickly becomes a time of stress, over-commitment, and shopping sprees. The winter holidays can often trigger difficult memories of people we love who have died. For those who struggle with depression all year, this time of year might be particularly painful.
In its wisdom, the Church celebrates the feast day of All Saints on November 1 – just at the cusp of our societal holiday madness. This year, take the time between All Saints’ Day and Thanksgiving to focus on remembering – remembering those who have gone before us, remembering what is most important, and remembering to listen to the still, small voice of God.
We participate in a deep tradition of remembering the communion of saints all year long, with a special emphasis on November 1. What is the communion of saints? The Book of Common Prayer (page 862) describes it this way:
The communion of saints is the whole family of God,
the living and the dead, those whom we love and those
whom we hurt, bound together in Christ by sacrament,
prayer, and praise.
Who are these saints we celebrate on November 1? At the All Saints’ Day liturgy we remember some of the faithful who have gone before us in the Litany of Saints. It calls us to recall that we are never alone in our faith – we participate in the communion of saints through sacrament, prayer, and praise. We belong to a spiritual community that upholds us, prays for us, teaches us. Members of liturgical Christian churches begin the “holiday season” with a reminder of our connectedness with all Christians, past and present. The church calendar calls us back to what’s important – loving God, loving others, as the saints lives show us – at a time when it’s easy for us to forget.
All Saints’ Day can help us make sense of the world around us. The world can be scary and feel hopeless sometimes: our neighbors continue to die of senseless gun violence, our community mourns the loss of a young person to suicide – where is the hope?
Dig deep into the tradition of the church: remember those who have died. Say their names. Display pictures of them, tell stories about them, write a letter to them. Light a candle each night this month as a prayer for those in your life who have died, for those in our faith community who have died, for those in the human family who have died. On the feast of All Saints we are given permission to mourn, to deeply feel and process the losses in our lives. Our culture tells us: get over it, they’re in a better place, work to distract yourself from the grief. The church tells us: remember. Remember the saints in your life. For it is through memory that we find healing.
~The Rev. Mary Lynn Coulson