THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS
Today we celebrate the Feast of All Saints remembering the multitude of Saints who have gone before us: the Apostles, prophets, martyrs, and virgin. Both the well known and so many unnamed men, women, and children who persevered in this life until the very end. It is a day of varied emotions as we remember our dear loved ones who presently are asleep in the Lord; all the beloved servants who departed this life in the faith and fear of the Lord (some of whom we will remember this evening at the altar of the Lord). This day brings forth bittersweet tears of happy times gone by, intermingling sorrow and sadness with joy, a joy in knowing that they live- though departed from us now- they live in the presence of Christ awaiting the great trumpet blast which will bring body and soul together: glorified and unified with Christ the King.
St. John gives a glimpse into this great and future day, when all of the saints are vindicated and unified with their God and each other, “I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne…” One of the great intersections on this Feast of All Saints, is the intersection of Heaven and Earth, how our earthbound hearts and minds are lifted up into the ‘otherworld’, that good and happy place which now we cannot see but one day will see. Through the Revelation of St. John, the Epistle appointed for this Feast Day, we are transported not only to where every faithful saint resides, but also transported to our end an aim: the eternal city with Christ, numbered among the great multitude.
What joy in knowing not only where our many loved ones have gone, but also, what a great source of hope and cause for gratitude in this life, in the now, in every second, minute, hour and day which the Lord gives. And lest we should falter and grow weary in our missionary task, take note of how many different peoples are gathered, and what a great multitude, so many saved in Christ Jesus, in fact, beyond man’s ability to number! Praise be to God!
While St John’s Revelation transports and draws us into heaven, collapsing time and space, our Gospel reading tethers us to the ground, for we are still here in this world, members of the visible church on earth, being gathered from every corner of the world into her saving arms, nurturing men, women, and children with her scriptures, liturgies, and sacraments unto salvation: as St. Paul writes, “travailing in birth on behalf of her children until Christ be formed in each one” (Gal 4.19).
Until Christ is formed in you and in me. This is the ministry of mother Church and our work as well, to work for righteousness and through grace, attain perfection: become as little Christ’s. And so Jesus, the true Moses, ascends a mountain and gives the Law, the Law unto holiness, the Law which brings blessings upon all who follow and lovingly obey the commandments of the Lord.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.”
Here, the Lord shows us the path unto holiness, the way of purity, the way of peace, the way of blessing. For this was the way of every saint who has gone before us, they weren’t perfect, but they pursued righteousness through covenant faithfulness and moral goodness. Being pure in heart, they now see God. The sermon on the mount is our path to unification with all the Saints and their Lord Jesus Christ. To be where they are, this is what we should desire and why we should emulate their good examples. In doing so, we walk blameless on this earth, with each step taking us closer to eternal bliss.
The writer of Wisdom says, “the righteous live for evermore; their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them is with the most High. Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord’s hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them” (Wis 5.15-16).
Today we are given to see a future reward that awaits all the righteous, and, we are also reminded of God’s grace and protection in this life, as we struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil; persecuted in this life, reviled, and evil spoken against us by men. “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven.” Amen.