By The Rev. Marisa Sifontes
I’m not sure if I can pinpoint why, but All Saints’ Day ranks pretty high on my list of favorite days on the liturgical calendar. It sits behind Pentecost and Easter Sunday, but perhaps ahead of Epiphany and the Feast of the Transfiguration. Of course, there’s the combination of the lingering sugar high and unbridled joy of Halloween. The day also marks that last turn in the church year as we head towards the season of Advent.
But if I had to guess, my love for All Saints’ Day has more to do with its existence as one of those thin spaces that reminds us of the presence of the Great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds us, both past and present: those we are related to as well as others who paved the way or claimed us. The day serves as a reminder that we are the walking dreams of our ancestors and also caretakers for those yet to come. It’s heady stuff: the confluence of people we love and who’ve loved us all gathered around, even if they didn’t know our names. All of us united, as children of a loving God.
All Saints’ Day began as a feast day to commemorate martyrs in the early church. By the eighth century, it had moved to November 1 and was extended to celebrate all the saints of the church. In our tradition, it is one of the seven principal feasts of the church year. It is a day we acknowledge and celebrate the entire Body of Christ both in heaven and on earth, a chance for us to remember the promises of our own Baptismal Covenant, and also a day to remind us of the ordinary and extraordinary ways God continues to call us all into communion.
I look forward to the hymns that we’ll sing together when we observe All Saints’ on Sunday, November 6, especially the bespoke song that appears only once a year. I’m sure you know it. It goes in part, “For the saints of God are folk just like me, and I mean to be one too.” For me, the remembrance of “those folk just like me” calls to mind many of those who’ve influenced my life: not only grandparents, aunts and uncles, but teachers, friends, and even my late husband. I carry all of them and many others with me, my own conduits and reminders of God’s divine love.
My other favorite tradition of the day is adorning the church with photos of our loved ones who are no longer with us physically, something that we’ll do here in the days leading up to All Saints’. Even if you don’t have the chance to drop off your pictures ahead of time, I hope you bring them with you on that day so that we might learn more about those whom you carry with you, see their pictures, and hear stories about the Great Cloud of Witnesses that surrounds all of us and continues to touch our lives.