All Saints Day and All Souls Day
November 1 and November 2
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The Communion of Saints?
The Apostles Creed includes an affirmation that may strike many modern Christians as unusual. In a relatively short Creed that has served for almost two millennia as a basic outline of Christian belief, we find this line:
“I believe ... in the communion of saints.”
Among the doctrines central to the earliest Christian church, the affirmation that we (the living) remain in communion with the faithful departed was considered important enough to include in a summary of the Christian faith.
In the spirit of passages like Hebrews 11, All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) teach us to honor most those people most worthy of honor. And in the spirit of passages like Revelation 21-22, these Holy Days also remind us that death is not the end, and that at this very moment a great cloud of witnesses comprised of those who have gone before us are offering praise to God in the heavenly realm.
(You can read more about why saints are worthy of commemorating throughout the year in the Why celebrate Saints? article that is now unlocked for free subscribers.)
So for today, continue reading below for the fascinating history of these two Holy Days, as well as a habit to adopt as we encounter them year after year.
All Saints Day
The earliest celebration of something akin to All Saints Day had the specific purpose of honoring those who were martyred for their Christian faith. As early as the beginning of the 4th century, Christians set aside a day to honor these martyrs, though they usually did so in the spring, and often in conjunction with the season of Easter and Pentecost.
By the year 800, Bishops from modern-day England (Alcuin of York) and Austria (Arno of Salzburg) noted their celebration of All Saints Day on November 1st. Within a century or so, the Church of Rome universalized that date, which most western churches still recognize today.
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