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All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day – a glimpse to eternity

Miklós Verseghi-Nagy 2020.11.01.
A graveyard in Poland

Today is All Saints‘ Day, dedicated to the saints, that is, all those who are already in Heaven. It is celebrated on the 1st of November in the Roman Catholic Church and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in the Orthodox Churches.

All Saints’ Day was originally held on the 13th of May, established by Pope Boniface IV in the 7th century. In the beginning, this holy day was commemorated only in Rome. In the 9th century, Pope Gregory IV moved All Saints’ Day to the 1st of November and extended its celebration to the entire Church.

The following day, the 2nd of November, is All Souls’ Day. Although closely related, and therefore often confused, this is another holy day dedicated to those who have died but not yet entered into Heaven.

Nowadays, it is a new trend to dedicate certain days of the year to something: a notion, a profession, a group of people. The list is so long that the 365 days of the year is not even enough. We have a sort of “congestion” on certain days. From “international coffee day” through “firefighters day” to “Earth day,” we have all kinds of occasions for commemorating or expressing respect and care.

All Saints‘ Day and All Souls’ Day have a much longer history, though. It is a tradition with roots in the early Church to remember our loved ones who passed away, and all those who, according to the faith of Christian believers worldwide, live in Heaven, in the community of the saints.

Many of us visit the graves of those close to our hearts in the graveyards around All Souls’ Day. The graves hold the memories of our family, our ancestors, our nation. It is not by coincidence that sometimes tensions unfold between nations related to cemeteries. In 2019, a conflict broke out between Hungarians and Romanians in the cemetery of Úzvölgye, Romania.

Visiting graves on the occasion of All Souls’ Day may help us find comfort over our painful losses. This act is also a beacon in our life. It stands still in space and time, unchangeably reminding us that our life is limited and finite. We need these reliable beacons a lot in our modern, highly accelerated world, amid the whirlwind of constant changes and uncertainties.

“A generation goes, a generation comes, yet the earth stands firm forever. The sun rises, the sun sets; then to its place it speeds and there it rises. Southward goes the wind, then turns to the north; it turns and turns again; then back to its circling goes the wind. … Take anything which people acclaim as being new: it existed in the centuries preceding us.” Ecclesiastes 1: 4-10

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are not only long-lasting traditions. These holy days are strongly related since the hope of Christian faith originates in the promise that after our death, a new, sacred life begins in Heaven, to which we are all invited.

Graves in the graveyard are distinctive, sacred points of space. In this way, we have a point in space and time where and when this world and the world-to-come join together. A window to eternity opens up and provides us a glimpse. This might help us to have peace and get closer to our most sincere self.

It is a time for that glimpse.

“There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under Heaven: A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted. A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building. A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.” Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4

Featured image: Justyna Troc, Shutterstock

SARNAKI / Poland – November 1, 2019: All Saints’ Day in Poland. View of a Polish cemetery.