Saturday, October 23, 2010

All Saints'/All Hallows' Eve (October 31)

ALL SAINTS’ EVE – October 31
(aka All Hallows' Eve)
AND ALL SAINTS’ DAY – November 1

As mentioned in my earlier post, All Saints’ Day was established by the Roman Catholic Church during the Middle Ages as a way to remember those believers who had died in Christ.    Originally it was celebrated on May 1st, but the Church moved it to October 31st in an attempt to “christianize” the Druid harvest festival Samhain which honored the Lord of Death (see previous post for more on this festival).

A Word About "Saints"

Saints, as mentioned in numerous Bible passages, are those who believe in the Lord, those alive on earth now and those who have already died from ancient times until now.   Some churches teach that only very holy people can be “sainted” and raised to the highest glory after their death.   Others believe that saints are only those who have died a martyr’s death such as the early Christians who were executed for sport by the Romans in the coliseum games.  

For our purposes here, based on the way the term is used in the Bible, saints are all those since Adam & Eve who have gone before us having held firmly to their faith in the Messiah, as well as those here on Earth alive now who also are living their lives to God’s glory.     Listed far at the bottom of this post are some passages which shed light on this topic.


If you didn’t already know it, there are two groups of Christians:   Roman Catholics and Protestants.    Protestant denominations came about as a result of some rather abusive practices by the Catholic Church in the years before the Renaissance.    Reformers had protested against these “abuses” which made the church leaders mad, and usually the protestor (like John Hus) was executed summarily.    

The Time & The Place

The year was 1517 when lots of history was being made.  By that time Columbus was getting to be an old man, the Renaissance was going full-steam ahead, Gutenberg had invented the moveable-type printing press, Henry VIII was married or divorced, and composers & artists were all the rage throughout Europe.  

The Roman Catholic Church (btw “Catholic” means “universal’) was in the process of building a very large cathedral, St. Peter’s Basilica, which translated into a need for some very large piles of money to fund the construction and pay the workers.   So the Church fathers came up with this, uh, “stimulus” plan of granting reprieves (“indulgences”) from time-spent-in-Purgatory.   These were small pieces of paper, once paid for, guaranteed your loved one stuck in Purgatory would be released and sent heaven-ward.     

Get Out Of Jail Free!

There were very few Bibles available at this time, and the ones available were written in Latin which meant the common folk didn’t have a clue what the Bible REALLY said.   People in the pews believed whatever their priests told them.  And if the local priest said that you could pay for a piece of paper to release a loved one from Purgatory, well, by cracky, you couldn’t wait to line up and hand over your coins when the indulgence-seller (circus) arrived in your town!    

The Man in the Right Place & Right Time 

Martin Luther was a scholarly priest and university teacher by this time; in fact Luther was so popular that he was assigned to preach at the Town Church in Wittenberg.   Martin loved God’s Word and was very familiar with the Bible and knew from his studies that the Bible never mentions such a place as Purgatory.    In fact, he was reading the book of Romans and came across a passage in chapter 3 which says 
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified*  freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”   

*[declared ‘not guilty’]

Well, a light-bulb came on for Martin, and he realized that the Church was teaching things contrary to God’s Word.   This wasn’t the only thing about the Church’s teachings that bothered him, so Friar Martin wrote up a list of issues he wished to review and debate with the church leaders.   Following protocol for issuing a request to debate a matter, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses (debate-able issues or points) on the door of the church on the evening of All Saints Eve (October 31, 1517).    

The Plot Thickens!

Martin’s questions raised ethical points about the Church’s practices and doctrinal values.   Wisely, someone printed and distributed Martin’s 95 issues, and it spread like wild-fire over Germany first and then all of Europe.    And the leaders of the Church in Rome (Vatican) were NOT happy about this.   No, indeed!  They wasted no time in pouncing on Luther trying to shut him up.    The Church had become a powerful political force by this time, and issued all sorts of ultimatums to the lowly professor in Wittenburg.    But God is greater than any earthly man-made religion, and God protected Martin and his excellent work spread across Europe.

Excitement!   Drama!   Plots & Skullduggery!

It’s a great adventure story which led to the Protestant Reformation.    Here are a few highlights:   Martin’s life was threatened by religious fanatics, there was a friendly kidnapping where he spent a year in a castle busy as ever:   he translated the Bible into German so the common people could read it, and he wrote lyrics and music for many hymns so that parishioners could be involved in the worship services.    

Luther defended his position before political and church councils.   Eventually he was excommunicated for his refusal to recant (he stood on the Bible, rather than the man-made traditions).     

Spoiler alert:   Martin married an excommunicated nun (Katherina Von Bora), had a large family, took in boarders, continued teaching and preaching, and died in the Lord.


The Protestant denominations (Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc) all  trace their beginnings back to Martin Luther and other reformers who stood up to the abusive practices of the organized Church.     Martin got things started by posting those 95 Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, Germany on October 31, 1517.    The Christian Church celebrates this event on November 1—Reformation Day.

As promised earlier…..I’ll be posting some optional celebration ideas in my next post.   Perhaps you will opt to find another way to celebrate All Saints’ Eve (aka All Hallows’ Eve) and Reformation Day.   God’s blessings!


1Samuel 2:9
Psalm 16:3, 30:4, 31:23, 34:9, 116:15, 149:1, 5
Daniel 7:18
Romans 8:27
1Corinthians 6:2
Ephesians 1:15, 18, 6:18
Philemon 7
Revelation 5:8, 19:8  

Luther’s Catechism, by David P. Kuske, c2003, Northwestern Publishing House, Milwaukee, WI.
Family Celebrations:  Meeting Christ in Your Holidays & Special Occasions by Ann Hibbard, c1988, Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Brentwood, TN.
World Book Encyclopedia, c1989, Chicago, IL.

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