Celebrating the Communion of Saints

One foggy evening, when I was stationed in West Germany, I was driving through a fairly rural part of the countryside, when I noticed a rather eerie glow off to the right side of the road. As I got nearer, I realized that I was approaching a cemetery, and each grave was marked by a burning candle. I had passed that cemetery any number of times, but I had never seen it so beautifully illuminated. I later discovered that a local tradition was to place a lighted candle at the grave of loved ones on November 2nd – The Feast of All Souls’, or as we Episcopalians now call it, “The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed.”

Two venerable and beloved Church feast days happen this week – The Feast of All Saints’ and The Feast of All Souls’. All Saints’ Day, or All Hallows’ Day, is one of the principle feasts of the Church Year, and is set aside as the day when the Church remembers the saints of God – known and unknown. It is one of the few Feast Days that, when falling on a day Monday through Saturday, can be moved to Sunday (and, incidentally, it is one of the four Sundays especially appropriate for baptism.)

While the origins of All Saints’ Day aren’t known, its roots probably go back to the 4th Century, when a feast for all the martyrs was observed in May. It wasn’t until around 735 that Pope Gregory III declared a Feast of All Saints on November 1. While the Feast of All Saints’ celebrates the saints of God, known and unknown, who have died, All Souls’ Day celebrates relatives and loved ones (the “rest of us” faithful whose lives do not merit a day on the Church Calendar) who have died. All Saints’ and All Souls’ became inextricably connected – sometimes being called Allhallowtide or Hallowmas season, being observed on November 1 and November 2, respectively.

The Western Church began their observance of All Saints’ with a service of Vespers on the evening before, which would be All Saints’ Eve, or All Hallows’ Eve. It isn’t much of a stretch to see how simple, superstitious and pagan folk might embellish a commemoration of the departed with stories of tormented souls of the dead, demons and other evil spirits – becoming the festive day of Hallowe’en we’ve come to know and love.

The Feast of All Saints’ is especially important in the Episcopal Church. We often speak of “the Communion of Saints,” and All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day remind us of our belief that all Christians that ever lived, are living, and will ever be, are bound together in one Communion – the Body of Christ. All Saints’ and All Souls’ celebrates this bond as we continue the ancient practice of praying for the saints who have gone on before us and acknowledge that those saints in heaven are praying for us.

Please join us for our observance of The Feast of All Saints’ on Sunday morning, November 3rd, at 8:15 and 10:15. We will be observing The Feast of All Souls’ with a solemn Evensong on the evening of November 3rd at 7:00 pm. All are invited to attend this beautiful sung service, and to bring photos of loved ones who have departed this life and light a candle as a silent and visible prayer for them.

St. Alban’s at the Acolyte Festival (National Cathedral)

ACOLYTE FESTIVAL at the National Cathedral

Saturday, October 12, 2019 | 9 am – 4 pm

Calling all acolytes – skilled or aspiring – and their families! We are organizing a group to go this year. There will be a grand procession, worship in the Cathedral, good food, lawn games, relays, and more. If you’re an acolyte, or ever wanted to be, this is a great way to see (UP CLOSE) all the things acolytes can do – and meet other acolytes from around the DC region and around the country!

More information: https://cathedral.org/acolytefestival

Cost: Free! (St. Alban’s will cover the cost.)

RSVP: by Monday, September 30, 2019 HERE

A note from Fr. Paul:

WE NEED YOU! Serving at the altar as an acolyte is both a huge responsibility and a huge privilege – the acolyte is an essential part of our worship heritage as Anglicans. Acolytes get a front row seat every Sunday! If you haven’t served at the altar before, perhaps now is YOUR time! Anyone (grade 3 and up) is eligible to serve. You don’t need experience, just a willingness to serve God and help our people worship Him in Spirit and in truth! Email Jane Lesko or Adam Huston, or a member of the clergy, for more information!

Summer Music: Nominate your favorite hymn!

This summer, we are inviting YOU to vote for your favorite hymns! We will try to select as many of your favorites as we can during July and August — with our amazing choir taking the summer months to rest their voices, the congregation becomes the choir! Let’s raise the roof with the joyful sound of cherished hymns.

You can submit your favorite hymn online right here (just scroll down to fill out and submit the form), or ballots and pencils are available in the Narthex through the end of June — we hope that you will vote for yours! Make sure you include your name, and consider sharing a story about WHY you especially love your chosen favorite. The hymns do not need to be from the Hymnal 1982 — we will do our best to resource hymns from other denominations and other hymnals as we are able (according to our music use licenses.) If need be, we can print them in the Sunday bulletin.

I can’t wait to hear from many of you about the hymns you love–it may be hard to narrow it down to just one! I know it will be for me…

Fr. Paul

Favorite Hymn Nomination Form

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The Great Vigil of Easter: Un-bury the Alleluia!

Most people are familiar with Easter Sunday, with its familiar readings and hymns, and its feeling of joyful celebration. Along with Christmas Eve, it’s one of two services that are attended even by people who almost never go to church the rest of the year.

Less well known, though, is a very important service that takes place the evening before Easter, which we call the “Great Vigil.”

It begins in darkness, with lighting of the New Fire, from which the Easter (Paschal) candle is lit. That one small flame grows as it is passed from one person to another, and the first part of the service happens by the light of many candles, during the gathering dusk.

Through readings from the Old Testament, the Vigil tells the whole story of salvation, beginning with the creation in Genesis; and continuing with the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, as well as memorable words from Hebrew prophets.

The early Christians welcomed new converts through Holy Baptism primarily during the Easter Vigil. This year, we will continue that tradition — it’s always a joy to welcome a new person into the family of God! And we will all renew our own baptismal vows, and be sprinkled in Jordan River water.

Part of what makes the Easter Vigil fun is the fact that the service rarely stays in one place for long. Here at St. Alban’s, we start by lighting the New Fire in the Memorial Grove, and then the Old Testament readings and baptism happen while we gather around the font in the center of the church.

After the Resurrection is joyfully announced, we will all ring bells, the brass will play, and we will sing the Gloria in Excelsis for the first time since Lent began. The focus of the service then moves to the front of the chuch, where we celebrate the first Holy Communion of the Easter season.

Way back at the start of Lent — on Ash Wednesday — many of the children of St. Alban’s attended the children’s service, in which we “buried” the Alleluia under the Altar at the front of the church. At the Easter Vigil, we hope many of the children of St. Alban’s will come and help to UN-bury the Alleluia! And the children will help the celebrant announce the joyous moment when we recognize the resurrection of Jesus.

The Great Vigil of Easter includes a lot of memorable elements: fire, flickering candles, sprinkling of baptismal water, joyful music with a brass ensemble and choir, fragrant incense … and, of course, meeting the Lord at the altar in the consecrated bread and wine of Eucharist.

The Great Vigil is truly worship for all the senses.

I hope that you and your family will consider joining us this year for the Easter Vigil. It’s my favorite service all year long. You might just find you agree with me!

The 2019 Great Vigil of Easter begins at 7pm at St. Alban’s on Saturday, April 20.