Wednesday, October 28, 2009

All saints day

This coming Sunday happens to be 'All Saints Day.' This is a Christian holy day observed by many Western churches on November 1 each year, and is a time to honor all the saints of the church throughout history. According to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:
From early times the church commemorated its great leaders and heroes, especially those who had suffered martyrdom, by observing the dates of their death. This gave rise to the sanctoral section of the liturgical calendar, and it was customary for those churches whose members had included great Christians or martyrs to gather for a Communion service at the martyr's tomb, which was sometimes used as a Communion table. At a later stage churches were built over these sites, and thus began the practice of dedicating churches in honor of specific saints.

Because there were other Christians whose faith and service (and even martyrdom) went unrecorded, and because some centers of the church gained more martyrs than could be commemorated in the days of the year, the practice of a general commemoration on All Saints Day developed. Originally celebrated on May 13, this festival was transferred in 835 to November 1, and medieval ideas of purgatory led to the following day being observed as All Souls Day, when the souls in purgatory were remembered.

At the Reformation the latter festival was dropped. Reformed churches use All Saints Day to thank God for the faithful departed.

I think this is rather interesting, because I don't recall ever hearing about All Saints Day in any of the churches I've been a part of. But most of them make a big deal out of Veterans Day every year. I guess it just makes me kind of wonder - what does that say about us as Christians that we make a bigger deal over those who have given their lives for country, rather than those who have given their lives for Christ? Not that I have anything against veterans, but which is more important to us: Christ or country?

We will be celebrating a communion toast to the saints this Sunday, and I will be preaching on the subject.

6 comments:

Jim said...

I happen to belong to one of those denominations that celebrate All Saints Day, and yup, it's a good time for remembrance of ALL the faithful who have preceded us. But I have to admit I was taken aback by "I don't recall ever hearing about All Saints Day in any of the churches I've been a part of." You need to get out more! :o)

dan horwedel said...

Jim,
Part of my not hearing about it could have been due to me not paying attention. But I think it has more to do with my evangelical, low-church, non-liturgical background. The fact is - many of those places have more of a concern for the secular than the sacred, and there just isn't a lot of tradition taught or caught (tradition, not traditionalism). I have a feeling you are in a more liturgical "high-church" situation, and there's a lot that's good about that. But neither are without their problems, are they.

Jim said...

Interestingly enough, I am in a medium-high church liturgical tradition, but then the only service our family ever goes to is the "Faith Rocks" 5:00 service, where t-shirts, jeans, shorts and sandals are welcomed.

I was raised Methodist and enjoy a good country church service as much as the rest of them. My wife was raised Lutheran (LCMS) and enjoys the liturgy she grew up with. I converted to the Lutheran church when I married Les (joke - my dad's a lapsed Catholic, my mom's a Methodist - I just split the difference and became Lutheran! :o).

I enjoy the liturgy but sometimes it does get boring if I can't keep it infused with the symbolism and meaning it is meant to convey. But I really like REAL high church services, such as the Anglican cathedral services I attended in England (Norwich, Westminster, St. Pauls). That's a show worth bringing tears to the eyes and contrition and love to the heart. But I think only because it was new and special. I bet the verger (look it up) gets tired of the same ol', same ol' every week.

My suggestion would be to attend a few "high church" services in Ft. Wayne (maybe on a Wed. night, so your flock won't notice your absence :o). Anglican, Lutheran, heck, even at the Catholic cathedral. Compare and contrast between them and between "low church." Pick up some bits you like and ignore the rest. For ex., you talk about not doing communion every Sunday. We do communion EVERY Sunday, all three services, without fail ("Do this often, in remembrance of me.")

Anyway, the liturgy and the liturgical calendar are interesting. I find them sometimes constraining, and sometimes really liberating. I think at the least you would find them interesting as a visitor.

Hint: LCMS is "close communion," but if you talk with the pastor beforehand they will almost always let you commune - they just want to check you believe in the triune God, etc.

dan horwedel said...

Jim,
Thanks for the insights. Just to set the record straight (not so much for you, but for anyone else who might be reading), I have no interest in switching to a "high-church" tradition, and I am fully aware of them and All Saints Day and the like. My gripe (and point of the post) are those places who put on a big show on Sunday morning for Veterans Day - with all the military garb and whatnot - but do or say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about those who have given their lives in service for Christ.

It's much like those who think it's great when young people sign up for military service, but if someone says they want to be a missionary and go to Pakistan or Afghanistan... they say they're nuts (and, yes, people say this; Christian people).

So, thanks for helping me clarify that. :)

Jim said...

No problem, Dan. And I didn't think you were trying to come over to the dark side, nor was I trying to entice you there! I just think it would be good if there were no "sides" in church, so that lines such as "low church/high church" and such could just be seen as different ways of loving, serving and expressing ourselves in Christ.

dan horwedel said...

I couldn't agree more! The "low/high" is not meant to imply one is better or worse. They are just different. And, personally, I am GLAD there are different ways of loving, serving and expressing. In fact, we try to make a regular practice of praying for other churches on Sunday mornings, just to emphasize that we are not in competition with one another... we are all in this together.

As always, thanks for your insights!