I can think of only two instances in our everyday speech in which the word HALLOW is used. The first in The Lord’s Prayer: “hallowed be thy name”. (Children are often thrown by the word and change it to “Harold” to make better sense to them.) The other common use of HALLOW is in Halloween, which is a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, or the Eve of All Hallows’ Day or All Saints’ Day. The hallowed ones are the blessed ones or the saints.
All Saints’ Day is one of the seven feast days of our church. Though All Saints’ Day is on November 1st, our present Book of Common Prayer gives permission for its celebration on the Sunday following, as we are doing today. [This sermon was delivered on 6 November.]
In the Northern Hemisphere, we are in the midst of the season of Autumn. It is a time when the growing season ends, and the foliage and flowers of summer disappear. The days become noticeably shorter. The warmth of summer is being replaced by the chill of winter, and the landscape becomes barren and bleak. The Japanese poet, Issa, captures the feeling of the season in a haiku:
No lightsome thing it is
to be born a man
Now autumn closes.
It is in this time when nature seems to be dying that the Feast of All Saints brings us hope. It turns our attention back to that day in spring we call Easter and to its celebration of resurrection, new birth and eternal life, and most of all to the risen Christ. During the great 50 days of Easter, we see again and again in our risen Lord what human nature can be: something wonderful and glorious. And on the last day of Easter, on the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came, doing his characteristic work of making Christ present. That is what makes Pentecost a major feast day, outshone only by Easter itself. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Risen Christ is made present in the lives of his people. From Pentecost on, we know absolutely that Christ lives in his people. It is one of the major ways he comes to us – in the lives of others. That was the meaning of what the priest in my parish said in these closing words to his acolytes: “Blessed be Jesus Christ on His throne of glory in heaven, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the altar, and in the hearts of his faithful people.”
For me, All Saints’ Day is an integral part of the Paschal Mystery – the Easter Mystery. Not only is Christ alive in his physical and risen body in heaven where he is the cosmic Christ; not only is Christ present in the blessed sacrament of his body and blood; he is also present in his people. That is what Passing the Peace is all about: not to visit, but to recognize the presence of Christ in others and to let that presence of Christ in us be recognized.
In the past, Christ made Himself known in the apostles, the martyrs, and all the holy men and women of those times. I can’t help but think how clearly the light of Christ was visible in Mother Theresa of Calcutta. You and I are the saints on Earth. The blessed ones. The holy ones. The hallowed ones. What a season of hope it is, because the hallowed ones share in the eternal life of God. Perhaps I would change the first word of Issa’s haiku from “No” to “A”:
A lightsome thing it is
To be born a man
Now autumn closes.
All because there is great hope in our life in Christ who now lives in us.