by Pastoral Intern Elle Dowd
Each year in the church calendar we observe the feast of All Saints Day, a day when we remember and honor those faithful witnesses who have come before us and who are now at rest with God. This day is set aside to give thanks for the lives of these witnesses and the ways that they made the love of God more real to us. The saints we remember might be formally recognized saints, like Saint Luke or Saint Julian of Norwich. But just as important as these more famous saints are the everyday saints that we knew personally; who sent us Christmas cards, who sat around our dinner tables at family meals or joined us for coffee or Happy Hour at our favorite spot.
Although All Saints Day is a special day set apart to give thanks and remember our ancestors in the faith, our theology tells us that we are actually united with them every week through the liturgy. Communion breaks open our understanding of time as something that is strictly linear. It jumbles up and confuses past, present, and future. When we celebrate Holy Communion, it is true that we believe that we are pointing to something that happened in the past – that there really was a Jesus who dined with his friends before he was betrayed and handed over to be crucified. But when we participate in communion, we aren’t merely doing a reenactment. We believe that something happens during communion outside of time, that the Church of the past and our assembly gathered in the present merge, and that we are catching a glimpse of the future God is calling us into where all who come hungry are fed. The sacrament of Holy Communion is a strange moment where the veil between this realm and the next becomes mysteriously transparent and thin.
The sacrament of Holy Communion is a strange moment where the veil between this realm and the next becomes mysteriously transparent and thin.
So each time that we gather around the table, the saints are there with us too. We are communing not only with God, but with all of the faithful in every time and place. Sometimes during communion, I like to actually picture them there with us. I imagine my Grandma June, whose example taught me so much about what it means to be a woman of God, and in those moments I trust that she is there with me again. Maybe you’d like to envision your own beloved saints communing with us this Sunday, too. Observing All Saints Day helps us to lean into the liminal space always open to us through the sacraments in a way that connects us to our past, present, and future.
I would love to hear more about who you might be remembering this year and how you feel their presence with you in these moments. My prayer for you is that you are blessed by these memories, that these minutes of mystical reunion can serve as an encouragement to all of us to hold fast to our faith and to become the saints future generations will look to for companionship on their journeys in the coming age.
Every year, All Saints Day falls on November 1. This year, we celebrate it in worship on November 3 at 9am and 11am.