From the very beginning, the Church has honored and revered its martyrs and heroes.
What began on a popular and local level gradually became woven into the liturgy, beginning around the fourth century in the Eucharistic Prayer. In the fifth century, a feast honoring all the saints was declared in some Eastern churches, and from there the celebration was taken up in Rome. In 835, Pope Gregory IV declared All Saints Day a feast for the entire Church.
A day commemorating the saints is actually a day of rejoicing in the greatness of the Lord and hoping in his love. The victory that we see in the saints testifies to the Lord himself. It was not just their own efforts that produced such holiness, but the work of the Lord, who wants to pour the fullness of the life of Jesus into our hearts. This has been the hope and joy of all holy men and women always and everywhere, and it is our hope and joy as well.
The Book of Revelation contains a vision of the redeemed of the Lord, gathered around the throne of God: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14). The victory of the redeemed came through the blood of Jesus, which washed them, purified them, and sealed them with the promise of eternal life.
The power of this precious blood of Christ is available to us every day by faith. We can turn to Jesus at any moment and ask for his blood to cover our sins and cleanse us. We can call on Jesus at any moment for him to pour out the power of this death and resurrection to strengthen us and enable us to live as God’s children.
“What love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1).
We are his children; he has adopted us as his very own! Every day, our Father’s hand is extended to us, and we have the great privilege to take hold of him.
Let us fix our eyes on the Lamb at the center of the throne who has promised to be our Shepherd and to lead us to “springs of living water” (Revelation 7:17). The Lord, who has worked in the lives of the saints, is ready to work in us if we will turn to him. Our God, who has chosen us to be his very own, is faithful!
Think of the saints whom you most admire. Then list the qualities they possessed that attract you. God used these character traits to make these men and women holy, and he can use your natural gifts and talents to help you grow in holiness, too.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the land.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the clean of heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:1-12)
Spend some time meditating on the beatitudes. Focus on the promises that Jesus makes to those who follow him. Ask him to make these promises—the kingdom of heaven, the vision of God, participation in the divine nature, eternal life, and rest in God—a part of your everyday decision-making that influences the goals you have for your life. On this day of grace and celebration, ask the Lord to give you a deeper desire to see his promises fulfilled in your life.
Many saints led challenging and often painful lives, but still managed to retain their joy and love of the Lord because of their intimacy with Jesus. When you pray today, ask the Lord to bring to your mind some concrete ways in which you can deepen your intimacy with him. The saints in heaven behold his glory and know the rewards of his life. Ask him to fill you with hope in the promise of eternal life, too, that we all may share the joy of all of the saints in heaven.