The Sunday after Pentecost, the Orthodox celebrate the Synaxis of All Saints which is also called the Sunday of All Saints. This year it falls on June 19th in the Belarussian Orthodox Church.
The feast of All Saints originated in the first centuries of Christianity as a commemoration day for all martyrs. It slowly turned into the day when we commemorate all of the saints - martyrs, prophets, fools for Christ, etc.
The feast became popular and started to be celebrated across the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century in the reign of Leo the Wise.
The Sunday of All Saints is dedicated to all saints known to us and to God alone. First, let’s figure out who the saints are.
The word Saint means “the Holy one”. This indicates that saints are those who lived holy lives and “have fought the good fight, have finished the race, have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Saints are human beings who were perfected by the Holy Spirit and who showed the fruits of the Spirit in their day-to-day lives.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
All of this is possible because of the descent of the Holy Spirit which happened on the day of Pentecost. With the Holy Spirit, any person can now achieve sainthood and become holy, which is exactly what God wants for us:
“Be holy, because I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
As such, it only makes sense to commemorate all saints of the Church on the next Sunday after Pentecost.
The Orthodox pray to the Saints because the Saints have already achieved a greater connection with God. We ask them to pray for us just like we would ask a friend. We see the Light of God in His Saints and we ask for their intercession and prayers.
The celebration starts on the eve of the feast. The faithful who come to participate in the All-Night Vigil service venerate the icon of the feast which is situated in the middle of the church.
The icon of the feast of All Saints is truly a beautiful one. It depicts Christ seated in the middle with countless saints standing all around Him in a circle. On the bottom of the icon, we can see the forefathers - Abraham and Jacob, as well as the Good Thief who was crucified together with Christ.
On the day of the feast, we celebrate a festive Divine Liturgy which includes the singing of Resurrectional hymns together with the hymns of the feast. There are two such hymns:
“As with fine porphyry and royal purple, Your church has been adorned with Your martyrs’ blood shed throughout all the world. She cries to You, O Christ God: Send down Your bounties on Your people, grant peace to Your habitation, and great mercy to our souls!” (Troparion of the Synaxis of All Saints)
“The universe offers You the God-bearing martyrs, as the first fruits of creation, O Lord and Creator. Through the Theotokos, and their prayers establish Your Church in peace!” (Kontakion of the Synaxis of All Saints)
During the Divine Liturgy on the day of the feast, we also read a few chapters from the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as the Gospel of Matthew.
An interesting fact about the feast is that we commemorate all of the Saints and this means that each and every baptized Orthodox Christian also has their Name Day on the day of the feast. This is why it is a tradition to attend service that day and receive Holy Communion.
PS - Click here if you have any prayer requests. The Sisters of St Elisabeth Convent are always there to pray to God and to His Saints for you and your loved ones, especially on the Sunday of All Saints!
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