Dear Fathers & Friends in Christ,
Have you ever been in the Saint Baaf's Cathedral in Gent, Belgium ? The world famous masterpiece of the brothers van Eyck, named " The Worship of the Lamb".
On the large middle panel of this altar panel you can see six groups of people, who worship the Lamb of God in Heaven: Prophets and Church Fathers, Apostles, Popes, Bishops and Martyrs. The painters have definetely been inspired by the vision described in the Book of Revelation.The Prophets and Fathers of the Church are a selection of the 144.000, signed by a seal of the Living God, indicating that they are from all the tribes of Israel. The Apostles, Popes, Bishops and Martyrs represents the uncounted crowd, who nobody could count.
Also artists labelled as a genius remain children of their time. In the time of Jan and Hubert van Eyck the Saints were listed on the official Church calendar, expect the Apostles and many Martyr, all people of Priestly standing. Their number did increase throughout the ages. But we should not misunderstand this. In Church Latin this declaration of Holiness is called " Canonisatio" The English and French wording of this process do come from this. The word does not mean more that what it says letterly. The person in question has been included in the 'canon', which is the list of all those who were declared Holy and were approved by the authority of Church and the Faithful.So, if we declare a Priest to be Holy in the Church, it does mean ( nothing more and nothing less) that His name to be added to the list. His veneration received then the official green light of the Church.
The Saints, who we remember today are not those of the official list.
We remember all those without a name or face, who have definately conquered death over life. A crowd, so large, that it cannot possibly be counted. People from all races, countries and languages.
Why is All Saints so popular? It is because of All Souls. In the morning perhaps , in many churches empty places are to be seen. But in the afternoon many people gather in the Churchyard. There the people, who have lived their lives have a name and a face, on the gravestones, or on a memorial plaque or in the columbarium, but especially in the memory of their relatives and friends, who come to visit their resting place.Some say prayers and say it aloud together. A prayer for the dear departed.Perhaps nobody will think to pray to him or her as to a Holy one they venerate. But would that not be so bad ?
You dont have to be a hero to become Holy. Off course their are Saints, who have done heroic things and certainly there would be heroes, who were also Saints. But most of the time Holiness and the Sainthood has not much to do with heroism.My late mother and father were no heroes at all and sometimes things they did annoyed me.But now, so many years after their departure, I think back and remember them with a certain amount of veneration. I go as far as to count them in the people, who Jesus called Holy on a mountain in Galilea.
On His list there were to VIP's, no champions, no professionals, who made the world a better place to live in. He used the word " blessed" for the poor in spirit, or the humble of heart, those who were not addicted to material things and money: those people, yes , they knew what real sorrow was.These people were longing for
righteousness, which was obviously not meant for them. The people, who spoke with their heart and wanted to keep that heart pure in this sinful world. And on top of it all those people, who were ridiculed because they were so naiv to believe in Jesus and they did not hide their Christian Faith.
All Saints is a feast by exception. Nearly all feasts on the Church Calendar are about God or Jesus Christ, His Birth, His baptism, His Resurrection and the Holy Spirit.
All Saints is a feast of those people, not only the great ones, who are on the Calendar of Saints, it is also in the first place the feast day of those dear little people, who we have known personally.
Father Ed Bakker
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne