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The Solemnity of All Saints

The Word This Week

“A huge number, impossible to count” – that is the picture this Solemnity creates. In every age there have been men and women who have followed the Lord faithfully, and who now rejoice in the Liturgy of Heaven, as they stand before the throne of the Lamb. These are the “anonymous” saints, whose names we don’t remember ‑ but even though their names are not on our lips, their memory, inspiration, example and prayers are set before us today, so that we too can be encouraged in our own “journey of perfection”. What does it take to be a saint? Surely the Gospel that is appointed for today (the Beati­tudes) shows us that it is in the small things that we triumph: gentleness, mercy, making peace, faithful mourning, purity of heart, poverty in spirit ‑ these are not grand, public ways to sanctity. They are domestic, and homely, to be practised and perfected with those closest to us. We sometimes exalt the ”named” saints to the degree that we can feel they are distant from us. Today’s feast, as well as celebrating the memory of the many whose name we do not know, also prompts us to see holiness as within our grasp.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Apocalypse 7:2-4.9-14

 A glorious reading for a glorious feast: this might sound a funny question, but what colour would you paint this reading? Surely in gold and glowing, brilliant colours, with the dazzle of white through­out. It’s a good exercise, as a way of “getting hold of the tone” of a reading to imagine painting it. This should tell you how to read: not in a flat, or matter‑of‑fact way, but with a voice that glows with the same brilliance. The first paragraph is an introduction, which introduces the idea of the first wave, who are sealed. Then comes the unfolding of glory! A huge number, from “every nation, race, tribe and language”. As always, since this is a vision, try and picture it, and if that helps your voice reflect wonder, awe or praise, then it is no bad thing.

Second Reading: 1 John 3:1‑3

This comes as quite a contrast to the First Reading, which is all trumpet blasts and dazzling light. Here the tone is full of love and warmth and an intimacy that is the other side of the coin to the immense vision of the Apocalypse. It begins by asking people to “think…”: your tone should encourage the assembly to do exactly that. Then there is the quiet affir­mation that “that is what we are”. It would be suitable to pause for a second, before mov­ing on to the next sentence, which explains why we still face rejection. This reading then moves on to ex­press, with wonder and mystery, the jour­ney ahead for those who are the children of God. Pause, and give due emphasis to the final two lines, which tell us how to be saints.