Although All Saints’ Day is celebrated each year on November 1, since it is one of the seven principal feast days on the church’s lectionary calendar, many Episcopal churches will celebrate All Saints’ Day today, on the first Sunday after November 1.
The exact origins of All Saints’ Day are uncertain, but some trace it back to the festival of All Saints on May 13 in 609, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs. Holy martyrs were celebrated on May 13 until the eighth century when Pope Gregory III moved the day of commemoration to November 1.
For the Episcopal Church, with its roots in Anglican tradition, it is important to note that November 1 was also the ancient Gaelic festival of Samhain, which celebrated the end of harvest season and marked the halfway point between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
After the Reformation (1517-1648), the Feast of All Saints was retained on the Anglican liturgical calendar, and in addition to being recommended as one of the four holy days appropriate for baptism, All Saints’ Day began to assume the role of general commemoration of the dead: all Christians, past and present; all saints, known and unknown.
Collect for All Saints’ Day
Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, p. 245).
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