1 November

Principal Feast

(From the Introduction to Chapter II of The Promise of His Glory)

The period around All Saints' Day directs the thoughts of Christians towards 'the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting'. We have included provision for this season in The Promise of His Glory , partly for the practical reason that it falls within the period of the year we are covering and has implications for the calendar in the pre-Advent period, but mainly because there is an important theological connection between our celebration of the saints and our reflection on God's Judgement on us. In other words, All Saints' and Advent belong together, and the one informs the other.

While many people think of the saints as examples of 'virtuous and godly living', this hardly does justice to the biblical insight that in our pilgrimage through this world 'we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses'. Sanctity is not so much about hero-worship as about accessibility; the saints are the real men and women of every age in whose lives we can glimpse heaven in our midst. They are our partners in prayer:

Before thy throne we daily meet
As joint-petitioners to thee;
In spirit each the other greet,
And shall again each other see.
Richard Baxter
But there is a dark side to our standing before the throne of God. While we are called to be saints, we know ourselves to be sinners. We have tried to build on that and to make All Saints' Day the turning point from the 'green season' of Pentecost to the darker mood of the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on 2 November, and the month that follows. In November there are a number of commemorations, of which Remembrance Sunday is the most obvious, which combine with the natural feeling of autumn days to focus on a sense of the coming end. By linking All Saints-tide with Advent through the provision made for the Sundays of the Kingdom in Chapter IV, we have continued the theme of All Saints and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. By this means there is a natural move from a season of reflection on the Church in time to one meditating on the Church's destiny in eternity.

The principal service for All Saints-tide is the Eucharist of All Saints' Day, whether kept on 1 November or the first Sunday in November. Although there is seasonal material for use at many points in the service, the only structural change from Holy Communion Rite A is in the position of the penitential section. Biblical acclamations lead into the Gloria at the beginning, making that an inappropriate place for the Confession, and the special Intercession leads without interruption into the Peace, making the Confession inappropriate at that point also. The rite allows for the omission of the Prayers of Penitence entirely on this day but, for those who wish to retain them, two places are suggested, either as a preparation before the rite begins or before the Prayers of Intercession.

There is also provision for the Eucharist on 2 November, The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. There are those who are reticent about having a separate Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on the day after All Saints' Day, and there is indeed a danger if the dead are placed in supposedly neat categories. The All Saints' Day collect affirms that God has knit together his elect 'into one communion and fellowship'. Nevertheless, psychologically and liturgically, there is a need for a day that is seen to be about our own departed, rather than the heroes of the faith, and that acknowledges human grief and fragility in a way that would hardly find a place when we celebrate the triumphs of the great ones on All Saints' Day.

For this reason a Eucharist for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed has been included. This is the context in which the unity of the living and the departed in the body of the risen Christ is both celebrated and proclaimed, and while we are sensitive to the theological difficulties that some have in relation to prayer for the Christian dead, we have provided words and options that will enable everyone to use this service with a good conscience. We have also tried to hold in a proper balance the confident proclamation of the Easter faith and the sobering reality of death and judgement that brings us to our knees before the majesty of God, whose grace alone can save.

The distinctive feature of the rite is a Commemoration, which is placed immediately after the Distribution of Communion (although we allow it at an earlier point). Here there is provision for names to be read (and perhaps candles might be lit by members of the congregation.) The Commemoration is placed here to emphasise our union with the departed within the body of Christ: as we feed on his broken body, so we are made one by his risen life.

Here is an opportunity for those who have been bereaved in the previous year to remember their departed family and friends in prayer.

Conscious that a eucharistic setting will not always be appropriate in ministry to the bereaved, we have provided another form for this season, a service of Word and Prayer. In addition to its use at All Saints-tide, it provides a structure for use at other times of the year, when there is a need for a non-sacramental form of commemoration. In particular it provides an outline for a Memorial Service.

For many twentieth-century Christians the All Saints-tide period is extended to include Remembrance Sunday. In the Calendar and Lectionary we have sought to make it easier to observe this without cutting across a developing lectionary pattern, and we have reprinted the form of service approved ecumenically for use on that day.

As an alternative, the provision for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed may be suitable for use on Remembrance Sunday.

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