Meanderings of a Minister

When the Saints Come Marching In
November 1, 2013, 7:49 pm
Filed under: Articles
Courtesy of Joy for the Journey

Courtesy of Joy for the Journey

Today is All Saints’ Day in some traditions.  What is All Saints Day and what does it mean to followers of Jesus Christ?   In order to answer this question, let’s first consider where All Saints Day comes from.

By the late fourth century, this common feast was celebrated in Antioch, and  Ephrem the Syrian mentioned it in a sermon in 373. In the early centuries, this feast was celebrated in the Easter season, and the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, still celebrate it then.

The current date of November 1 was instituted by Pope Gregory III (731-741), when he consecrated a chapel to all the martyrs in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and ordered an annual celebration. This celebration was originally confined to the diocese of Rome, but Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the feast to the entire Roman Catholic Church and ordered it to be celebrated on November 1.

The vigil or eve of the feast, October 31, is commonly known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. Despite concerns among some Christians (including some Catholics) in recent years about the “pagan origins” of Halloween (see Halloween, Jack Chick, and Anti-Catholicism), the vigil was celebrated from the beginning—long before Irish practices, stripped of their pagan origins (just as the Christmas tree was stripped of similar connotations), were incorporated into popular celebrations of the feast.[1]

Understanding the history of the day, we next must move to the concept of a saint in general.  In Roman Catholicism, a saint is a person that has been canonized by the church as a means of recognizing an extraordinary life of service to the Church in various capacities that have made an impact on the world on its behalf.  There are many criteria that are used for determining who should and should not be recognized as a Saint and these criteria are beyond the scope of this article.

The word, saint, comes from the Greek word, hagios, or holy one.  This is the most common term used to refer to believers in Jesus Christ by the Apostle Paul.  He begins virtually every letter by addressing it to the saints to whom he is writing.  The term is used over 60 times in the New Testament and refers to all Christians.  There is no specific set of conditions for a Christian to meet in scripture to be called a saint.  We are saints because God has made us holy as He has applied the blood of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to our hearts and cleansed us from our sin.  He has set us aside for the select purpose of being called by His Name and to represent Him on earth as a priesthood of all believers.

As you go through your day on November 1, you might want to spend some time thinking about the answers to the following questions:

  1. Have you been born again?  (John 3:3)
  2. Do you understand, as a believer, that you are called to be different than you used to be?
  3. Since Holy means “other than”, do you understand you are called holy?
  4. Saint means “holy one”, so do you understand you are a saint?
  5. How are you living out your life as a saint?

Have a great day worshipping God and thanking Him for the Cross of Jesus Christ that makes all believers saints and gives us a purpose for our lives we have not previously known without Him (Ephesians 4:17-24).


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