Today, the church Celebrates the Feast of All Hallows, or All Saints Day. It is a Solemnity, which means we are required to attend mass. Its where we get the word, Halloween, which is a mashing together (Germanically..) of All Hallows Eve, the same day Luther would nail his thesis to the door of the church.
But what is a saint? Saint, the word, comes from the Latin “Sanctus”, which means Holy. We first hear about them in Revelation 7:9
After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.
This immediately follows a favorite of the Jehovah Witness… the so called 144000 (which is actually a mathematical Prophecy…. but that’s another discussion). The Give away of these people is their White Robe. This was something the People of God at the time this was written would have understood. The Levites, Wore white robes when entering the Court of Priests. Even in early times, those who received Baptism would wear white. In the Psalms, we hear the Psalmist cry “Wash me O Lord, and make me Pure, and I shall be whiter then show”. Clearly, this color white robe, is very symbolic of purity.
Also if we read further in Revelation 21:27
Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Here again, we have this concept of white. Even the Lamb, in the Passover, was white, spotless.. without stain.
This is what a saint is – They are those who by their life (or in the matter they died), made themselves pure, spotless, worthy. This is not to say, their works earned them their salvation. That is a gift that is freely given. But, what it does demonstrate to us, is that they are without a doubt, beholding God in all his perfect glory. Something we like to term the “Beatific Vision” – God, in his perfect love, can only be comprehended in Perfect love. The saints, through prayer, struggle, and becoming increasingly closer to God, obtained this perfect love. Our Souls are immortal, so they very much can (and often very well do) carry baggage.
That’s not to say, we aren’t all called to Holiness. This has been the mission of the Church since Pentecost 33ad. However, as is often with groups ran by man, corruption sat in. We developed “Criterium” for sainthood, which while useful, was corrupted in its understanding. Instead of it being used as Proof that without a Doubt, these people were in heaven, it somehow became a Posthumous litmus test. This was one of Luther’s greatest quips, that this doctrine of Sainthood attainable for all, became corrupted.
Luther though was also in error in his thinking – Where he did rightly point out, its a free gift, he ignored the fact that “Faith without Works is Dead”…So much so that he at one point ripped James’ letter from his reworked bible.
We need to know why we celebrate, and believe what we believe. We Celebrate All saints, because where the Canonization process is a formality, we certainly don’t know the name or condition of every Person whom ever died in the Lord, nor do we know if he.. in his mercy, decided to save that person ( see St Dismas, the Good Theif).
Also more importantly, this day teaches us where we are going. We ALL will one day see God.. in his perfect glory (though some of us…including myself.. will have our baggage). Saints are something we can emulate, and more importantly they remind us, we all have the ability to achieve Holiness. It was given to us from the Blood of Christ.. But, we have to work at it. Just like Paul says “Work out your own Salvation with Fear and trembling”. One day, we will see the One being who is owed this, not because we fear him, but because of our place in the universe, and his Omniscience.
Those who go before us, share not only in that Vision, but also are very much alive and well. As such, we can certainly pray with them (which is what intercedence is) – can we go directly to God? Yes… But why wouldn’t we have our case pleaded or validated by those who are in the room with him?
That’s what this day is about. Realizing our connection to each other, to those who went before us, and where we are going. All you Holy Saints (who are very much alive) – Pray For us.
Its traditional to Chant the Te Deum sequence or Recite it Publically in a Church on this day. So in an effort to “Publically Recite it” , I leave you with a chanted YouTube of it, so you can read the words as well – This is what we will without reservation, by our very nature, chant sing or whatever, in front of Him. (also its in mode 3…a Triumphant mode, for you chant nerds out there)
All you Holy Saints, pray for us!