This day we keep, with one great cry of joy, a feast in memory of all God’s holy children;

His children, whose presence is a gladness to heaven;

His children, whose prayers are a blessing to earth;

His children, whose victories are the crown of the Holy Church;

His chosen, whose testifying is the more glorious in honour, as the agony in which it was given was the sterner in intensity.

For, as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters.

And the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering.

And the heavier the torment, the heavier the prize.

And it is our Mother, the Catholic Church, spread far and wide throughout all this planet, has learned, in Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, nor cross, nor death.

But she has waxed stronger and stronger, and – not by fighting, but by enduring – has breathed into all that noble band who have come up to the bitter starting-post that hope of conquest and glory which has warmed them manfully to accept the race.

In truth you are blessed, O my Mother the Church!

The blaze of God’s mercy beats full upon you.

Your adornment is the glorious blood of victorious Martyrs, and your raiment the virgin whiteness of untarnished orthodoxy. Your garlands lack neither roses nor lilies.

And now, dearly beloved brethren, let each one of us strive to gain the goodly crown of one sort or the other, either the glistening whiteness of purity, or the red dye of suffering.

In the army in heaven peace and war have both chaplets of their own, with which to crown Christ’s soldiers.

Moreover, the unutterable and boundless goodness of God has so arranged things that the time of working and wrestling should be made neither long nor everlasting.

Rather, it lasts for but for a moment, so that in this short and scanty life there is wrestling and working, but the crown and the prize is in a life which is eternal.

So the work is soon over, but the wage is paid for ever.

And when the night of this world is over, the Saints will behold the clearness of the essential light, and to receive a blessedness outweighing the pangs of any torment.

To this Apostle Paul testifies when he says The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18).

The Venerable Bede (672/4-735): Sermon 18 “on the Saints”, from Mattins of the Feast of All Saints in the Old Breviary.