Synaxarion for the Sunday of All Saints.
On this day, the first Sunday after Pentecost, we commemorate the feast of All Saints from all times and throughout all the world: from Asia, Libya, Europe, from the North and from the South.
Our godly Fathers have established the commemoration of this present feast after the Descent of the Holy Spirit in order to show that the coming of the most Holy Spirit worked enormous deeds through the Apostles, sanctifying and bestowing wisdom upon those who were like us, and setting these saints in the place of those angels who had fallen, leading them, through Jesus Christ, to God. Some, the martyrs, came through blood, while others were led through their virtuous way of life, but all were perfected through the Holy Spirit in an ineffable manner.
The Spirit descended in the form of fire, for His is a higher nature which descends upon that which is lower, while that which is of clay — in other words our nature — inclines toward that which is lower and must be lifted up to the heavenly.
Only a short time before this, the Body that had been assumed and deified by God the Word was lifted up and seated at the right of the Father’s glory. Now, according to the promise, He draws to Himself all who desire to come, as the saving works of God the Word show us in the latter role of His coming in the flesh among us according to His dispensation. Those who have fallen from the faith He brings to unity and friendship with God, and those who did not acknowledge God are now brought as an offering from among mankind and are made pleasing to Him through a multitude of persecutions and torments. In such a manner, then, we celebrate the feast of All Saints.
Secondly, in celebrating this feast, we honor many others who, although pleasing to God through their perfection of virtues, have, for unknown reasons, or perhaps due to circumstances that existed in the world at that time, remained unknown to all, even though they are greatly glorified before God. In addition, there are many who lived according to the will of God in Asia, India, Europe, Egypt and the whole of Africa, Arabia, Mesopotamia, and Phrygia, in the northern regions of the Black Sea as well as in the western lands as far as the British Isles and the Americas, and, to sum up, in the East and in the West — those whom it was not easy to make known, according to the practice of the Church, because of the vastness of their numbers. Therefore, in order that we may also receive the assistance of all those who have been pleasing to God from every part of the earth, as well as to honor those Saints who will later be added to the calendar, the Holy Fathers have thus established the feast of All Saints, encompassing all, from the earliest saints to the most recent, from those who are well known to those who are unknown, sanctified by the Holy Spirit who rests in them.
Thirdly, it was necessary that a single day be set aside for all the Saints who are commemorated separately throughout the year, thus showing that they struggled for one single Christ and that all found themselves on the same paths of virtue and were thus crowned in worthiness as servants of the one single God. They form the Church Triumphant, filling the world above and encouraging us to strive ahead in this same battle, which varies in a multitude of ways for each individual according to his strength. Each person must struggle according to his own strength and with all his might.
The wise and praiseworthy emperor Leo built a beautiful and grand church in honor of all these Saints from all ages in the city of Constantinople, near the Church of the Holy Apostles. It has been said that he originally wanted to build this church in honor of his first wife, Theophana, (comm. Dec. 16), who led a life pleasing to God in a very distinct manner, living admirably even while in the midst of the turbulance of the royal palace. But when the emperor made his intention known to the Church authorities, they were not in agreement with this wish; instead, they were against the idea of the emperor, saying that it was not fitting to number among the Saints and to give such honor to Theophana, dedicating a church to her, and such a large and beautiful one at that, since it was only yesterday that she had been living the presumptuous and luxurious life of an empress. However pleasing she may have been to God, they still felt it was too soon to offer her the honor and veneration of a Saint. The wise emperor, taking into consideration the feelings of the entire Church, thus raised the church of All Saints, saying, “If Theophana is a Saint, then let her be counted among all the Saints.”
It is considered, therefore, that the celebration of this present feast was begun for the last reason, even though it may be that it had been observed earlier than this. Some say that the feast began as the Sunday of All Martyrs and then were later added all the other classifications of Saints who still bore witness to Christ, although they had not shed their blood. It is thus set at the closing of the Triodion and the Pentecostarion, surrounding all the feasts as a fortress without distinguishing any in particular. The good order and rhythm of the Church, begun in ancient times, took shape slowly, taking on its present form during the time of this emperor. The Triodion, using but a few words, contains within itself the careful explanation, in unspeakable words, of all which God has done for us: the fall of the devil from Heaven due to that first disobedience; the banishment of Adam from Paradise due to sin; all the dispensation that God the Word has shown for us. The Pentecostarion shows us how we have been lifted anew up to Heaven through the Holy Spirit and how, there, we are to take the place of the fallen angels — something which is attainable, for it has been accomplished by all the Saints.
We must also know that we now celebrate all that the Holy Spirit, in His good will, has sanctified: the exalted and sanctified souls of the nine Hosts, Ancestors and Patriarchs, Prophets and Apostles, Martyrs and Hierarchs, Confessors and Monk-martyrs, Monastics, the Righteous, and all the host of Holy Women and all the other unknown Saints, together with those who will be added in the future. But above all, among all, and with all the Saints, the holiest of the holies, the most Holy and incomparable One, who is more glorious than the angels, our Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.
Through the prayers of Your most Pure Mother,
О Christ our God,
and of all the Saints from all ages,
have mercy on us and save us,
for You are good and love mankind.
The Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and the Pentecostarion, ed. Fr David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), Rives Junction, MI: HDM, 1999, pp. 244-248.