All Saints – 2020
All Hallows Eve or Halloween, as we call it, looked and felt different this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, but it was also different for another reason. A blue moon, the second full moon in the same month, was visible last night all over the world. This is a rare celestial phenomenon, once every two to three years, and hence the saying ‘once in a blue moon.’ It’s even rarer for it to fall on All Saints Eve; the last time this happened was during World War II, in 1944, 76 years ago.
A blue moon has always been associated in folklore with good fortune, heightened connection to the divine, happiness and rejoicing; a time when something rare and unexpected can happen and indeed, the feast of All Saints is all of these things. It is a feast which is literally full of humanity. So many people and all so happy, so blessed. The Magnificat Antiphon for the Office of Vespers attempts to list some of them, “Patriarchs and Prophets, holy Doctors of the Law, Apostles, all Martyrs of Christ, holy Confessors, Virgins of the Lord, Hermits, and all Saints.” We should not underestimate the value of people being blessed and happy. We could describe the scene as homo ludens, people playing. There is enough misery and sadness in our Covid world. A Christian is a joyful presence, because we have a lot to be joyful about.
This feast reminds us that we belong to a vast crowd of witnesses and all of them filled with joy. It reminds us that it is possible to be in love with God and with one another; happiness is possible. All these beatitudes, these teachings from Jesus, are ways of entry into this kingdom of heaven, this place of joy. It is based not on our achievements, intelligence, or our observance of the law, but on the acceptance of our condition as human beings, homo ludens. Sanctity is not something for the dead; it is for the living and for everyone. G. K. Chesterton once said, “If God didn’t love ordinary people he wouldn’t have made so many of them!”
Blessed are the poor in spirit – you don’t go out to try and become poor in spirit, we are poor in spirit, it’s a fact, and because we are poor in spirit we are also blessed. Blessed are those who mourn, who are sorry about the way the world is and their part in making it so. Blessed are the meek, the gentle, those who are not out there fighting with everyone and destroying the world in the process. We need more good people around today. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, this is what we all long for, but we’re not sure how to get there. Then finally he says blessed are you – at last, it comes to us – when they insult you and persecute you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad!
These words of Jesus probably represent the best homily ever written. Jesus himself, in his life and death, became all of these things; poor, gentle, hungering for justice, pure in heart, merciful, a peacemaker and his Father answers all of them in the Resurrection. The saints are our brothers and sisters and they are already giving God thanks and praise. We have come here today to join with them around this altar. Let’s not wait for the next blue moon on All Saints, which won’t arrive until 2039, to remember this fact and as we sing our Sanctus, the hymn which comes from heaven, at this celebration of the Eucharist, let us be conscious that we are part of a vast throng giving praise to God, at play before God, homo ludens.