|Wassily Kandinsky All Saints' I (1911)|
All Saints Day (November 1st) is listed by the Book of Common Prayer as one of the seven principal festivals of the year. Nowadays it is common practice for the main celebration to take place on the Sunday following, and this generally means that the lessons for this Sunday are replaced with those for All Saints’ Day, which also follow a three year cycle.
The lessons for Year C (which is this year) are a little different from Years A and B. They do not include the passage from Revelation traditionally associated with All Saints. Instead, we have an extract from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians. In it he refers several times to ‘the saints’, but we should be careful not to read modern connotations back into his letter. Paul doesn’t have specially good or holy people in mind. He is simply referring to all those who, by acknowledging the call of God in Christ Jesus, have set themselves apart from the world of the Roman Empire, in one way or another.
|Limbourg Brothers Heavenly Host (1408)|
The Gospel that accompanies this lesson is Luke’s version of the Beatitudes. It differs noticeably from Matthew’s more familiar version. Luke has Jesus address his hearers directly – “Blessed are you” – and he follows his account of Christian blessings, with a list of ‘Woes’ or warnings about the fate that might befall us. In this way Luke makes the contrast between ‘the poor’ who will be blessed, and the rich who have great sorrow in store, much starker than Matthew.
To hear the call of Christ, and thus become one of the ‘saints’ who are set apart, we have to take this two-sided message seriously. The wealth most people in the developed world enjoy is spiritually dangerous. It brings with it the risk of ceasing to count our blessings, and coming to regard them as just reward for talent and hard work. Conversely, though the poor of this world are often regarded as people to be pitied, their poverty can put them at a spiritual advantage. Poverty is no guarantee of holiness, certainly, yet the precariousness of life that poor people experience may leave them much less likely to take the gifts of God for granted.
“All things come of You, and of Your own do we give unto You”. These words from the Book of Chronicles are commonly used as an offertory prayer. It is far easier to say them, however, than to take them to heart.