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Archive for November 1st, 2012

Lessons:

The Apocalypse of St. John the Divine 7: 2—17   Psalm 149 1 John 3: 1—3 St.Matthew 5: 1—12

Almighty and everlasting God,  You knit together Your faithful people of all times and places into one holy communion, the mystical body of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Grant us so to follow Your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living that, together with them, we may come to the unspeakable joys You have prepared for those who love You; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

In an excellent article on Brothers of John the Steadfast blog, “Redeeming Holy Days from Pagan Lies — Hallowe’en: A Short history“, Pr. Joseph Abrahamson, has a good introduction to the origin of All Saints Day to show that All Saints was not derived from pagan holidays.  I quote only the sections pertinent to the All Saints:

In the first three centuries after Christ’s resurrection, the lives of the martyrs of the Church were commemorated on the day and in the place where they were killed.

There were so many who were killed because of their faith in Christ during those centuries. Throughout the Christian Church different days were set aside not only for each martyr, but a special day for all Saints.

The earliest reference to a day being dedicated to the commemoration of All the Martyrs and All Saints of the Christian Church comes from the 2nd century. The document is titled “The Martyrdom of Polycarp.” Polycarp was a Christian killed because he would not deny Christ. The document says:

Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps. (Chapter 18) [Emphasis added]

Later, a Christian Bishop named Ephraim the Syrian mentions a common All Saints’ Day in 373. In 397 St. Basil of Caesarea chose a day when the churches of his bishopric would honor the memories of all Saints known, and unknown, alive or in heaven. Later, John Chrysostom mentions a common day of memorial for the Saints in 407 AD.

In the year 609 or 610 Pope Boniface IV established a date for All Saints’ Day on May 13th. And later, in the early 700s AD, Pope Gregory III changed the date to November 1st. Decrees like this took some time to propagate from Rome to the more remote areas where the Church was found. But the change in date had nothing to do with any pagan practices. Pope Gregory IV extended the celebration on this day to the entire Western Church in the early 800s. And again, the change took time as it spread from Rome.

The point is this: a common day for commemorating the Saints has been around throughout the Christian Church from very early times. And the fact that it falls on November 1st today has nothing to do with paganism….

All Saints’ Eve (Halloween) and All Saints’ Day have a special place in the commemoration of the Christian Church because of the Reformation. It was on October 31st, Halloween, thatMartin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. It was on that date he chose to challenge the corruption in the official church about the notion that salvation in Christ could be bought with money or works. All Saints are saved by Grace, through Faith, revealed by God’s Word in Christ.

Halloween, October 31st is Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517 the Church of Christ began to return to the authority of Scripture alone over the traditions and will of man. It was the day that the Church began to return to salvation by Faith in Christ alone over the works of human will and deeds prescribed by humans. The day that the Church began to return to salvation by Grace alone, rather than the effort of the individual or that individual’s reliance upon the efforts of the saints who had gone before him. It was the day that the Church returned to reliance upon Christ alone and not upon self…

Halloween, Reformation Day, All Saints’ Day is a very special day of the year for the Christian Church. We commemorate all saints past, present, and future with the confession that we cannot save ourselves with our own works, no price we could ever pay would be good enough. But Christ has paid for the whole world. And all believers in Christ, and these are the Saints, will be raised on the last day to eternal life. Reclaiming Halloween means knowing where it comes from, why the day was established, and the historical significance it holds for the Christian Church. Satan and the world are always willing to undermine and steal anything that is of value to the confession of the truth of Scripture. Let us not fall prey to the lies.

The Lutheran Church retained the saints but with right Scriptural understanding.  The offense of the Roman Church was the invocation of the saints:  individually prayer to the saints which has no Biblical support.  To this day, one of the requirements  to determine  if a departed Christian is a saint and thus  ‘becomes a saint’ in the Roman Church is by people praying to him  or her and  thereby two miracles are verified!  The Reformers in the Lutheran Confessions call a thing what it is: idolatry and thereby robbing the merits of Jesus Christ for us and for our salvation. 

The Scriptures use the word “saints” repeatedly, as Paul does when he addresses an epistle, “…to the saints that are in…”  The Lutheran Confessions, the Apology of the Augsburg Confession,  teaches the Biblical and clear understanding of the saints:

Our Confession approves honors to the saints. For here a threefold honor is to be approved.

The first is thanksgiving. For we ought to give thanks to God because He has shown examples of mercy; because He has shown that He wishes to save men; because He has given teachers or other gifts to the Church. And these gifts, as they are the greatest, should be amplified, and the saints themselves should be praised, who have faithfully used these gifts, just as Christ praises faithful business-men,  Matt. 25:2123.

The second service is the strengthening of our faith; when we see the denial forgiven Peter, we also are encouraged to believe the more that grace  truly superabounds over sin, Rom. 5:20.

The third honor is the imitation, first, of faith, then of the other virtues, which every one should imitate according to his calling. 

The first listing of all the saints is recorded in Hebrews 11.  This is the great crescendo of The Letter to the Hebrews in which the preacher puts before us for our encouragement those  in the Old Testamen twho lived by faith in the One Who was to come.  “By faith” is the refrain throughout the chapter. Out of faith in the Lord they could accomplish the impossible which they could never have done on their own.  As it says above in the Apology, this is for our encouragement.  In fact, “encouragement” is the preacher’s goal in Hebrews because his fellow Christians were losing heart.  Everyone listed in Hebrews 11 was a sinner and by faith, a saint.  Sinner and saint and the line between the two was not a fixed line: this part of me saint, this part sinner, but ever being sanctified, make holy by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Marines recruiting motto has been: Never given always earned.  For the saints, it is Never earned, ever given.  And another motto:  Ever given, always learned.  

The saints are models of the godly life, not achieved, but received by faith.  The 11th chapter of Hebrews reaches it’s high point in the first three verses of chapter 12.  The saints’ eyes and souls are fixed, not on themselves, but Jesus Christ, especially those who are asleep in Christ awaiting with us the last Day.  So when we come together for Holy Communion, it is not just us present on a Sunday morning, but all the company of heaven, looking to Christ.  The saints preach Christ and never the Christian.  We need this encouragement in these dark days:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

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