All Saints’ Day is a celebration of the Communion of Saints, the Communion of all the Faithful, both living and dead. Thus, it is also our feast day, and it is a mistake to celebrate only the departed ones who have been canonized or officially recognized as holy.
In the letters of the apostle Paul, “the saints” refer primarily to living members of the Christian communities (see e.g. 2 Corinthians 1:1). Paul organized a collection in the regions where he founded communities, and “Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem” (Romans 15:26). Living people were the original subjects of the Beatitudes of Jesus which would be the gospel reading on All Saints’ Day.
In “Mga Kataga sa Teolohiyang Doktrinal” [Terms in Doctrinal Theology], the Communion of Saints is dynamically translated as “Damayan ng mga Tapat,” and is described as follows:
ang matatag na sandiwaan, paghahating-kapatid sa mga kaloob ng Diyos, at walang-kamatayang bayanihan ng lahat ng mga tapat kay Kristo, mga tapat na nabubuhay at mga tapat na sumakabilang buhay; tinatawag ding pakikipag-isa ng mga banal. Ito’y bukluran sa iisang Diwa ni Kristo na nakikilala’t nadarama lalo na sa pagdiriwang ng iisang binyag at iisang salu-salo ng Panginoon.
It is a solid sharing in the Spirit, the brotherly sharing of God’s gifts, and the undying solidarity of all of Christ’s faithful, the faithful in this life and in the next. This communion in the one Spirit is experienced and expressed especially in the celebration of one baptism and one supper of the Lord.
The Communion of the Faithful is misunderstood or rejected by those who are devoted to patron saints but are indifferent to or neglectful of needy brothers and sisters in this life. The real Communion of the Faithful entails solidarity and mutual aid to address physical, psychological and spiritual needs.
This is a Communion not of perfect people but of forgiven sinners like the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus, who resolved: “I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” (Luke 19:8).
By visiting the cemeteries and praying for our beloved dead on All Saints’ Day, we are expressing our hope in the mercy of God and freedom from sin for our departed loved ones. “Anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (Rom 6:7), and thus we hope that our dearly departed are counted among Christ’s faithful, who have been set free.
de Guzman, Emmanuel, Joselito Henson, Reginald Cruz and Dennis Gonzalez. “Mga Kataga sa Teolohiyang Doktrinal.” Quezon City, 2001.