A Great Cloud of Witnesses
All Saint's Day can be traced to the fourth century when the church sought to honor all the saints and martyrs of the church. Traditionally, the day after All Saint's Day was known as All Soul's Day when the faithful would pray for the souls of all those who were recently departed. In our protestant tradition we recognize the contributions of all our ancestors in faith with a day that is referred to by either name. For all souls are also all saints.
The historical date for All Saint's Day is the day following All Hallow's Eve (Halloween). There is, of course, an ancient connection between pre-Christian commemorations of the dead that fall on that day and the church's holy days. Though there was certainly an act of cultural appropriation in the scheduling of these days, I believe if also reflects the deeper human connection to death that naturally comes in the fall. As harvests are completed, leaves fall, and the nights turn long it is fitting that we reflect on our own encounters with death.
This Sunday we will commemorate All Saint's Day in our annual Memorials Sunday. The service will include a chance to light a candle in remembrance of a loved one who has passed away this year.