Today is the Feast of All Saints, which is celebrated every November 1. By the fourth century, this Feast of All Martyrs, as it was then known, was celebrated on May 13. The words “martyr” and “saint” originally meant basically the same thing — someone who is a witness to Christ even unto death.
The early Christians usually placed the body of the martyr who had died for his faith in a tomb that was easily accessible. Then on the anniversary of that martyr’s death, the faithful would come and pray and celebrate the Eucharist. Eventually, these celebrations were held in local churches to commemorate not just one martyr, but all who had given their lives for their faith. By the fifth century, this feast of “All Saints” was held on the Friday of Easter week.
However, in the ninth century, Pope Gregory the IV changed the date to November 1. Those Christians who endured torture for the faith, but did not die, were treated with great respect. Therefore, their local church often acclaimed those who led heroic and faithful lives as saints after their deaths.
The theology of this feast emphasizes the bond between those Christians already with God and those still on earth. Consequently, the Feast of All Saints points…