No Christian is solitary. Through baptism we become members one of another in Christ, members of a company of saints whose mutual belonging transcends death:
One family, we dwell in him,
one Church, above, beneath;
though now divided by the stream,
the narrow stream of death. (Charles Wesley)
All Saints’ Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed on All Souls’ Day both celebrate this mutual belonging. All Saints’ Day celebrates men and women in whose lives the Church as a whole has seen the grace of God powerfully at work. It is an opportunity to give thanks for that grace, and for the wonderful ends to which it shapes a human life; it is a time to be encouraged by the example of the saints and to recall that sanctity may grow in the ordinary circumstances, as well as the extraordinary crises, of human living. The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed celebrates the saints in a more local and intimate key. It allows us to remember with thanksgiving before God those whom we have known more directly: those who gave us life, or who nurtured us in faith.
Redemption is a work of God’s grace; it is God who redeems us in Christ and there is nothing to be done beyond what Christ has done. But we still wait for the ﬁnal consummation of God’s new creation in Christ; those who are Christ’s, whether or not they have passed through death, are joined in prayer that God’s kingdom will be revealed ﬁnally and in all its fullness. We also sense that it is a fearful thing to come before the unutterable goodness and holiness of God, even for those who are redeemed in Christ; that it is searing as well as life-giving to experience God’s mercy; and this instinct also is expressed in the liturgy of All Souls’ Day.
Remembrance Sunday goes on to explore the theme of memory, both corporate and individual, as we confront issues of war and peace, loss and self-gift, memory and forgetting.
The annual cycle of the Church’s year now ends with the Feast of Christ the King. The year that begins with the hope of the coming Messiah ends with the proclamation of his universal sovereignty. The ascension of Christ has revealed him to be Lord of earth and heaven, and ﬁnal judgement is one of
his proper kingly purposes. The Feast of Christ the King returns us to the Advent theme of judgement, with which the cycle once more begins.
Special Services at St John's
The nearest Sunday to 1st/2nd November is a special day at St John's. The morning services see a celebration of All Saints and in the evening we keep the feast of All Souls in a beautiful service that draws heavily on choral music (similarly to Good Friday this may be a requiem mass or a selection of appropriate choral pieces). The evening includes the remembering by name of the faithful departed and the opportunity to light a candle in remembrance.
The Second Sunday in November is kept as Remembrance Sunday and the morning Sung Eucharist includes, at 11am, the Act of Remembrance.
The Sunday before Advent is kept as the Fest of Christ the King usually marked with special music and liturgy.