The Solemnity of All Saint is a day set aside to honor all those who have died in faith. Most of the over 10,000 saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church are from New Testament times and beyond, but there are Old Testament figures who are regarded as saints as well. In order to be a saint canonized by the Church, there are certain criteria that determine their worthiness, attested by miracles; so in that sense, the Old Testament saints can’t be investigated in the same way, but the Church still honors many Old Testament figures because of their faith.
The Bible directs us to Old Testament figures noted for their faith such as Abraham (Hebrews 11), King David (1 Samuel 13:13-14) and Daniel (Daniel 1-6). The Church connects us to the canonized saints who have merited this recognition by their faith as well. Let us remember that the faithfulness of the Old Testament figures was passed on to those who became the first disciples of Jesus, the apostles and the early Christians. The faith of all the saints springs from the faithfulness of the ancients who put their trust in God, believing in the promised Redeemer.
When meditating upon the Old Testament faithful, the question arises, where did they go after they died, since Christ had not yet redeemed the world in order for them to live forever with God in heaven. The New Testament points out that those who were in a good place after death went to a place called “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:19-31). There is no term in the Old Testament that specifies paradise in the same way that we understand heaven today, but the concept of life after death was certain as we see in the episode in Maccabees where the soldiers pray for their dead comrades (2 Maccabees 12:44-48). The understanding of life in heaven with God forever became more fully understood after Christ’s glorious resurrection, and similarly, the understanding of saints dwelling in heaven also became clearer.
We understand now that the Old Testament figures of faith are presently in heaven with Christ as is referenced in the Nicene Creed of Christ’s descending to hell (or the place of the dead) after purchasing them with his death and resurrection to deliver them from captivity. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “In his human soul united to his divine person, the dead Christ went down to the realm of the dead. He opened heaven’s gates for the just who had gone before him (CCC, 637).
I must admit that I am far more familiar with the biblical figures of faith than I am with ninety percent of all the canonized saints in heaven, but nonetheless I am grateful to all of them for interceding for us here on earth. Especially on this day I am deeply grateful for all those who have kept the Faith before me, and I pray that I will remain faithful to the end so that I too may dine with all of the redeemed and the angels at the great banquet in heaven with Christ.