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They Have Washed Their Robes White

All Saints

‘Today by your gift we celebrate the festival of your city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise.’
These words from the Preface of today’s Mass give us the full meaning of this feast-day. This is a day when we should lift our eyes from the thousand duties and worries that are claiming our attention, and contemplate what it is we are doing it all for, or more precisely, who they are who have done it all before us.

The life of all the saints in Heaven is something we cannot properly imagine and perceive, and so we have to make do with images, like the image of the festival. And this festival attracts the widest spectrum of participants. Everyone is there: ordained, religious and laity; great men of state and lowly servants; doctors, lawyers and illiterate labourers; consecrated virgins and mothers of twenty; those of the ancient days of the patriarchs and the children of the digital age. They passed along many different paths in life, but when at the end they came before the judgement seat of God, they were found worthy of a place in the great festival of Heaven.
Today’s feast should encourage us then as we think of all the saints, and realise that what they did in their human frailty, I can do too. We are still united with them as members of the one Church, and they will assist us with their intercession if we turn to them. But there is something important to remember, that is the words of ‘the elder’ to the evangelist in the First Reading of the Mass: “These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed their robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.” (Apoc 7:14) None of the saints have made it to heaven through paths strewn with roses.
The cross is part of every Christian life, and so it is with persecutions. Whatever Our Lord had to bear on earth must likewise be borne in some fashion by his disciples. Persecution comes in many subtle forms today, but it is not hard to find. The crucial point to remember is that we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, and this gives us power and grace enough to withstand all things. We cannot choose our cross and we cannot choose our path to heaven, but today we gaze on all the blessed ones gathered for the eternal festival, and give thanks that such a great calling has been offered to us too.

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