For all the saints, who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy Name, O Jesus, be forever blessed.
Completing the Halloween run up and then decrescendoing tomorrow into the commemoration of All Souls is the feast of All Saints. In the medieval church, All Saints’ Day was a significant festival celebrating the faithful who had attained heaven, the Church Triumphant. The next day, All Souls’ Day was the commemoration of…well…every other Christian who had died, the Church Penitent. All Saints’ was festive, and All Souls’ tended to be a grimmer with requiem masses and much repenting and worrying about where a relative was in Purgatory. In the secular culture, though, All Souls seems to have had a stronger pull. That makes sense. Hey, Francis and Ambrose, to name a couple of awesome saints, were lovely guys and great examples of faith, but when it comes down to celebrating someone you never met or thinking about how much you miss your father/mother/daughter/son/ grandmother/uncle, etc. and wondering where they are on the salvation spectrum…where do you think you are going to focus your time, energy, and attention?
Thou wast their Rock, their Fortress and their Might;
Thou, Lord, their Captain in the well fought fight;
Thou, in the darkness drear, their one true Light.
In the Lutheran church, however, most Protestant ones when it comes to that, all baptized and believing Christians are saints. Apart from high, high churches, like the Anglo-Catholics, Protestants don’t celebrate All Souls. Commemorations of the dead are held on All Saints and are held in the sure and certain faith that these saints have received the gift of redemption through grace and will not have to work off time served in Purgatory. All Saints is then a jolly affair focusing as it does on the salvation given to the great Church triumphant.
O blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
All are one in Thee, for all are Thine.
Or at least I think so, but that could be because the hymn sung on that day is so splendid. “For All the Saints” was written by William Walsham How, then a rural dean in Shropshire, England, in the 1860s. How eventually became a suffragan bishop in London and then the Bishop of Wakefield, and apparently he was quite good at what he did, but had he been half as competent as Bishop Proudie, this hymn would have made up the difference. The tune is actually relatively modern too, having been written by Ralph Vaughn Williams, and the combined effect is electrifying. How wrote it as a processional hymn– hence the 11 verses that allow even the Anglo-Catholics to get around the whole church in procession–but verses 3-5 are typically omitted in most hymnals. Apparently even modern Lutherans find 11 verses daunting. (And I shall wax eloquent on THAT topic of shame around Christmas.) Let the Methodists, remembering their heritage of terrorizing people with close harmony singing and getting their tonality on, take it away ! (The hymn starts @ the :17 mark and wraps up around 5:03.) May you, dear saint, sing along and celebrate the foretaste of the feast to come.
But lo! there breaks a yet more glorious day;
The saints triumphant rise in bright array;
The King of glory passes on His way.