When I read the first reading what struck me was the presence of the ‘others’. One hundred and forty-four of all the tribes of Israel, (‘our’ people), but then countless others of all tribes and nations. This led me to think about the expansion of the idea of ‘All Saints’ in this feast.
I think I originally thought of the feast as celebrating canonised or beatified Saints who were over-looked or did not have a feast of their own. Quite early on this came to include other ‘holy’ people (Catholics!) who were not officially recognised.
Gradually, this broadend to honour outstanding good or heroic figures whether Catholic, Christian or other: people who modelled true poverty of spirit, peace-makers, those who hungered – and worked and suffered – for justice, the heroically merciful and forgiving. Clearly the Beatitudes apply universally with no reference to anything specific to ‘our tribe’. Now we think of ordinary people – those we have known, our family and friends who have gone before us. ‘All Saints’ now has a very wide embrace.
But have we, like the great mystics, yet reached the final stage of including ALL without exception? When Julian of Norwich wrote her famous ‘All will be well …’ she was not merely saying the same as Derek Mahon’s beautiful poem, so much quoted these days: ‘Everything’s going to be alright’. Julian was expressing, with understandable caution, her heretical conviction that there is no eternal hell. Joy and bliss will be without end; not so hell. In the end ALL are ‘saved’ i.e. taken up into unity with and in the Divine Mystery. And now we (heretics?) include all of Creation in that!
I see ‘All Saints’ as a celebration of where we are at this point on the way to the final unity of the Parousia – a truly joyful and hopeful celebration! Happy Feast!
Sr Genevieve Mooney OP