Revelation 7: 9-17, Matthew 5: 1-12
The tradition of All Saints Day, which we celebrate today, traces its history back to the sixth century. At that time Pope Boniface consecrated the Pantheon at Rome as a place of solemn remembrance and thanksgiving for the life and witness of so many hundreds and hundreds of Christians who were martyred there during the first three centuries of the church.
All Saints Day became a comforting tradition. Do you remember the Latin etymology for the English word “comfort”? com + fortis: com = with; fortis = fortitude or strength. All Saints Day: a day to comfort us, to strengthen us, so we can faithfully meet the challenges at hand in our own lifetime by our embracing the companionship of the saints.
There are two things a little out of the ordinary this evening. On this “First Tuesday”, which happens to be All Saints Day, we invite you to come downstairs after the service for a soup supper. And this feast of All Saints is one of the occasions when we renew our Baptismal vows. Following these reflections, we’ll stand together, renew our promises and be sprinkled with water as a reminder of our baptism into Christ, into his death and resurrection, baptized into his likeness.
We stand together in this life on a kind of threshold, a threshold between two rooms. The room before us and the room behind us are both infinities, infinities that we only vaguely comprehend. The room behind us is an infinity of nothingness, of un-being, of non-existence. We have come out of that “un-beingness” and now actually do exist. The other room, the room before us, is an infinity of being, of what we call “eternal life”. The threshold upon which we stand partakes of both rooms. Like in the narthex of this chapel, we can hear the sound of traffic from one direction and we can smell the incense from the other, and yet not be in one place or the other.
The tradition of All Saints Day, which we celebrate today, traces its history back to the sixth century. At that time Pope Boniface consecrated the Pantheon at Rome as a place of solemn remembrance for the life and witness of so many hundreds and hundreds of Christians who were martyred there during the first three centuries of the church. Curiously, last night, Halloween – with its sometimes-bizarre tricks or treats and costumes and fires – is connected to this holy day. The name “Halloween” comes from the Middle English halowen which means “holy” or “saint.” And so, Halloween is the evening before All Hallows Day, i.e., All Saints Day. Now hold that thought for a moment.