Sunday 5 November
Year A: 4th Sunday before Advent
Liturgical Colour: White
- Revelation 7:9-17
- Psalm 34:1-10
- 1 John 3:1-3
- Matthew 5:1-12
For those churches that follow the lectionary there is again a choice of readings today. Some will have celebrated All Saints Day on the 1st November and might do so again today, or alternatively, keep today as the 4th Sunday before Advent; yes, it is that close! However, many will observe it today.
We are technically still in ordinary time, but the few weeks between All Saints and Advent seem to have a flavour all of their own. Indeed, it is sometimes referred to as the Kingdom Season, even though that title was officially rejected by Synod in favour of ‘Sundays before Advent’. Some churches also move to red vestments and hangings rather than green. (Either is fine – or none – if that is your tradition.)
All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Day take us through a time of reflection and thanksgiving for past sacrifice, before the lectionary moves that reflection towards the anticipated judgement of Christ the King.
All Saints Day is a Principal Feast or Holy Day, when, as the name suggests, Christian saints are remembered and celebrated. But, who counts as a saint?
The Early Church venerated the martyrs who had suffered and died for their faith. Romans 1.7 uses the word ‘saint’ to describe all Christians. Those canonised by the Roman Catholic church are distinguished by the capitalisation of the word ‘Saint’. Following the Reformation, Protestant churches (if they observe All Saints Day at all) tend to celebrate all faithful Christian people, past and present.
The Church of England is a glorious mix of all of that and today is perhaps an occasion to rejoice in the whole Church – however understood!
The movement in our liturgy over the next few weeks reflects the time of year we are entering. There is no doubt that November is a time of preparation for winter. Although our weather doesn’t seem quite so predictable at the moment, the nights are certainly beginning to draw in, especially since the clocks went back, and it is getting darker and colder.
In response, nature is beginning her winter withdrawal. The grass is still growing vigorously (bother!) but leaves are falling and plants are either beginning to die back or slow down, conserving their energy for when conditions improve again.
This apparent dormancy is why November to March is the best time of year to plant trees.
Perhaps there are lessons in that for us as we prepare for changing seasons in our church life. How might we accept that decline and periods of dormancy before new growth are part of the normal pattern of things? How might we preserve the fruits of the summer that has now passed? How might we give thanks for, and to, all those whose sacrifice of service has kept, and keeps, our churches going through all the seasons? How might we use the time between now and Advent in prayerful deep-rooted reconnection with the source of all life? What trees shall we plant in anticipation of Spring?
All Saints Day is also known as All Hallows day, which makes a bit more sense if it is celebrated the day after Halloween! I don’t know about you, but with so much darkness in the world at the moment, I am even less keen than usual of making light of horror and death. There is nothing fun about it. Let’s stay in the light and be visible signs of Christ’s love and potential for transformation to others. One way to do that is to join in with Wear Your Faith Fortnight – see here for more details.