Today, November 1st, is All Saints Day. Tomorrow, November 2nd is All Souls Day.
Having grown up in Community of Christ, I didn’t really “get” either of these observances. Most of knowledge was limited to things vaguely overheard on the playground or in movies – which, is a pretty poor way to learn about any spiritual or liturgical tradition.
Today under a variety of names: All Saints’ Day, All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, the Feast of All Saints, the Solemnity of All Saints (Hat tip to Wikipedia! I hadn’t heard all of these), the Christian church celebrates the lives of all saints – known and unknown. Though traditions vary, the intent is the same: we give thanks to God for the faith, the lives, the stories, the mission of the saints.
Coming from a Protestant/ Restoration tradition, I struggle with the concept of “Saints.” I mean, how are they picked? Who decides what they are in charge of? Do those jobs change? Years ago, a Catholic friend of mine boiled it down for me like this: “A saint is simply a person whose capacity to love God is greater than the rest of us, and thus lives an extraordinary faith.”
This stripped-down definition appeals to me. And when the idea of living a Christ-like life seems impossibly daunting, I can see the appeal of trying instead to live a saint-like life. It’s also why All Saints’ Day appeals to me – the saints known and unknown. We honor those of extraordinary love – even if we don’t know them. Extraordinary love is always something we should celebrate.
Tomorrow, All Souls’ Day, we celebrate, commemorate, honor and remember all those who have gone before us. Those whose lives and journeys have shaped our own. We celebrate the impact of the ordinary – and how extraordinary it can be.
Our faith tradition doesn’t have a particular observance around either of these holidays – which frees us to create our own. I say we start simply:
Look outside. Notice the leaves – those fallen to the ground, those changing color – deepening, brightening or fading – and about to fall from the tree.
Think about nature – how when things die, their nutrients pass to the earth and nurture new life.
Think about your own life. How have you been nurtured by those who came before? Whose extraordinary love has impacted your life?
Breathe. Give thanks. Breathe.