Almighty ever-living God, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints, bestow on us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Rev. 7:2-4, 9-14
I, John, saw another angel come up from the East,
holding the seal of the living God.
He cried out in a loud voice to the four angels
who were given power to damage the land and the sea,
“Do not damage the land or the sea or the trees
until we put the seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.”
I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal,
one hundred and forty-four thousand marked
from every tribe of the children of Israel.
After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:
“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”
All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:
“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me,
“Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”
I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”
He said to me,
“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress;
they have washed their robes
and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.”
Today November 1, the Church celebrates all the saints: canonized or beatified, and the multitude of those who are in heaven enjoying the beatific vision that are only known to God.
During the early centuries, the Saints venerated by the Church were all martyrs. Later on the Popes set November 1 as the day for commemorating all the Saints. We all have this “universal call to holiness.”
“The Commemoration of All Saints” was first celebrated in the East. The feast is found in the West on different dates in the eighth century. The Roman Martyrology mentions that this date is a claim of fame for Gregory IV (827-844) and that he extended this observance to the whole of Christendom; it seems certain, however, that Gregory III (731-741) preceded him in this.
At Rome, on the other hand, on May 13, there was the annual commemoration of the consecration of the basilica of St. Maria ad Martyres (or St. Mary and All Martyrs). This was the former Pantheon, the temple of Agrippa, dedicated to all the gods of paganism, to which Boniface IV had translated many relics from the catacombs. Gregory VII transferred the anniversary of this dedication to November 1.
In the past, the Church celebrated one by one the feasts of the saints. Today she joins them all in one festival. In addition to those whose names she knows, she recalls in a magnificent vision all the others:
“Of all nations and tribes standing before the throne and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands, proclaiming Him who redeemed them in His Blood.”
The Gospel of the Beatitudes, read today, shows the happiness of the Saints, and also shows, the road that they followed; there is no other that will lead us whither they have gone.
The feast of All Saints should inspire us with tremendous hope. Among the saints in heaven are some whom we have known and all who lived earthly lives like our own. They were baptized, marked with the sign of faith. They were faithful to Christ’s teachings and they have gone before us to the heavenly home whence they call on us to follow them.
The liturgical celebration begins at Vesperas on the evening of 31 October and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day.
What must we to do in order to join the company of the saints in heaven?
“We must follow in His footsteps and conform [our]selves to His image seeking the will of the Father in all things. [We] must devote [our]selves with all [our] being to the glory of God and the service of [our] neighbor. In this way, the holiness of the People of God will grow into an abundant harvest of good, as is admirably shown by the life of so many saints in the Church history”. (Lumen Gentium, 40).