What We Celebrate on All Saints

All Saints has always been special at Christ Church Madison, since it was when we officially launched as a church plant back in 2018. To be specific, we celebrate our birthday on All Saints Sunday - the first Sunday after the Feast of All Saints, which is November 1. Over the decade+ that I’ve been Anglican, All Saints has come to be one of my personal favorite feasts of the church (if we’re allowed to have favorites), and it’s also a feast that’s new for a lot of folks who come from non-liturgical backgrounds. What exactly are we celebrating on All Saints?

In the Bible, the Greek word “hagios”, which is translated as “holy” or “saint” means “to be set apart”. Referring the saints as God’s holy people, it’s used a bunch in the Psalms, in the end-time prophecies in Daniel and Revelation, and over 35 times in Paul’s epistles. Here’s one of my favorite examples:
“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:19-21, ESV)
I love this vision of unity and belonging to God’s family, shaped by Jesus Christ, stretching through the generations all the way back to the prophets and apostles, and ever growing. As a missionary kid, I have always had a complicated relationship with the concept of home and heritage. My parents are Americans of Irish and German descent who met as missionaries in the Netherlands before moving to Poland in the late 80’s. My sisters and I were raised with all of those influences, and I’ve never felt like I fully belonged to any one culture or people group.

That is, until I found myself in a liturgical church in college, repeating every Sunday: “I believe in the communion of saints,” and I slowly came to realize that I’m a member of the massive, historic, global household of God. I looked around the sanctuary full of mostly strangers and I thought “These are my people!” When I’ve had opportunities to meet Christians from all over the world, I can wholeheartedly call them my brothers and sisters.

More recently, as I read about 7th century Celtic monastic communities (a recently nerdy kick I’m on) I feel connected to them, even though they’re probably not a part of my biological family tree. I love my living crazy uncles, but I also love my godly (and sometimes crazy) spiritual ancestors like Francis of Assisi, Aidan of Lindisfarne, Ignatius of Loyola, Amy Carmichael, Gladys Aylward and Billy Graham, who set themselves apart from the world around them, and devoted themselves to living for Jesus. I’m much prouder of being a Christian like these spiritual heroes, than of being American like Abraham Lincoln, or Polish like Maria Skłodowska Curie, or even Anglican like C.S. Lewis (though I’m very proud of all of those.)

Being a Christian is the core of my identity, and while the most important part of that is following Jesus Christ day by day, on the Feast of All Saints I celebrate that I’m not on that journey alone. I celebrate Christ Church Madison, where I finally feel at home, together with all of you. I celebrate the rich ancestry of generations of believers who came before me and passed down the faith. And I celebrate the brothers and sisters around the world who help me recognize how the culture around me is influencing my faith. I invite you to join me in this celebration as we near the Feast of All Saints together.

All Hallow's Eve 2023
Dcn. Kaitlyn

You can learn more about the history of All Saints here, and read a meditation on the collect for All Saints here.
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