All Saints and All Souls Days
All Saints Day and All Souls Day are days for remembering Christians who have died.
In a homily given on Nov 1, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said regarding All Saints Day:
“…The Saints are not a small caste of chosen souls but an innumerable crowd to which the liturgy urges us to raise our eyes. This multitude not only includes the officially recognized Saints, but the baptized of every epoch and nation who sought to carry out the divine will faithfully and lovingly…”
In a homily given on Nov 2, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI said regarding All Souls Day:
…we commemorate all of the faithful departed, who have “gone before us marked with the sign of faith and… who sleep in Christ”
According to Catholic Doctrine the above “Saints” have already entered Heaven; All Saints Day remembers them. On the other hand, All Souls Day is seemingly intended to remember all Christians who have died but who sleep in Christ having not yet arrived in Heaven.
In the context of All Saints Day, the Catholics use the word Saint in a specialized way. It does so to only refer to those saints who have died, and who lived a life which qualify them to already be in heaven in the eyes of the Catholic Church in contrast to Christians who have died and not yet reached heaven according to Catholic doctrine. In doing so, it seemingly does not mean to deny that all Christians are saints to include those who are yet alive on earth. But is seems to claim to have special knowledge about the certainty of certain persons qualifying as saints and who have entered heaven.
Yet, some non-Catholics celebrate these days using different yet somewhat similar criteria and definitions for these days. For example the United Methodist Church celebrates All Saints Day on November 1st. But it includes all Christians who have died as saints to be remembered.
There is nothing unbiblical about remembering the dead. In fact, the United States Memorial Day is a similar secular day celebration except Memorial Day is officially intended to remember American military members who died while serving in the military. Also, we often do so on loved ones birthdays, Mothers Day, and Fathers Day, and similar days.
Problems occur when the manner of such remembrance involves activities that are inconsistent with biblical holiness (hallowed). Problems also occur when the secular world had or have celebrations at the same time as these days. Problems further occur when Christians incorporate secular activities that are inconsistent with biblical admonitions.
So then should Christians avoid celebrations during these days because humans have corrupted the idea of remembering the dead? Well, should Christians avoid celebrating Christmas because humans have in some cases commercialized it and in some cases employ unbiblical activities and symbols? Of course not; Christians should still celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ which is what Christmas is all about. We as Christians certainly should not give the non-Christians power to determine our celebrations.
At home, the head of household is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of that celebration. At church, the head of the local church and/or its “board” or “leadership council” according to the church’s standard procedure is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of that celebration. Likewise, at school, the head of the school and/or school board is to determine whether a celebration occurs and the manner of the celebration. In all cases, participants in any such celebrations are to ensure all activities are consistent with biblical principles. Of course, the head of the church and the church in general are to preach and teach the whole counsel of God so all will know what is consistent with biblical principles at home, at church, at school, and in society in general.
For a discussion of Halloween including more info on problems associated with remembering the day see my article entitled Halloween – To Celebrate or Not Celebrate.