It's Halloween season, but All Saints Day on November 1 is one few celebrate or acknowledge, a day that lifts up the faithful servants of God.
Halloween is upon us, a day that has grown into a billion dollar business in this country. But more importantly for the church is the following day, the day the church calls All Saints Day. This is the day which arose out of the early church's desire to celebrate the Martyrdom of the early Christian martyrs. This common feast was first celebrated in Antioch in the late 4th Century during the Easter season. When martyrdom increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire local dioceses decided to come up with a feast day to make sure all the martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.Pope Gregory III set the current date of November 1 and ordered all the priests in the diocese of Rome to celebrate this day. Pope Gregory IV extended this feast to be observed by the entire church. In medieval England it was known as All Hallows Day, and the day before, All Hallows Eve, has come to be known as our Halloween. The word "hallow" means to regard as sacred or holy.
So, who are these saints? The English word "saint" originated in Christianity and is now used more generally to refer to a state of special holiness attributed to certain people. Christian's aren't the only ones with "saints" however. These special people are recognized by various religions. The Jewish tzadik, the Islamic wali, the Hindu rishi, the Sikh guru, and Buddhist arat or bodhisattva all refer to people recognized as having special qualities. Depending on the religion, saints may be recognized by official declaration or by popular acclamation. For Christian's, broadly speaking, all people who follow Jesus Christ and live their lives accordingly are called the saints of God. St. Paul himself often refers to the Christian converts in the various churches as saints.
Today the Roman Catholics, Anglican and Lutherans, and a few other Protestant denominations believe the all the faithful deceased in heaven are considered saints, with some worthy of greater honor. So the next time you go to church, look around. You are in the presence of some very special people, yourself included, the saints of God.