And every one that striveth for the mastery, refraineth himself from all things: and they indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible one. (1 Corinthians 9:25)
Today, dearly beloved, on one solemn day of rejoicing, we celebrate the feast of all the saints in heaven. In their communion, heaven exults; in their patronage, earth rejoices; in their triumph, holy Church is crowned with glory. Their testimony becomes more glorious with honour in proportion to the intensity of their agony. As the battle waxed fiercer, the greater was the glory which came to those who fought; the more terrible their tortures, the more illustrious the triumph of their martyrdom; the greater their torments, the greater their rewards. As our holy mother the Catholic Church – now spread far and wide throughout the whole world – has been taught by Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, or the cross or death, but to become stronger and stronger, not by resisting but by enduring, so has she breathed into her children, welded by the cruel prison into a glorious band, a triumphant spirit equal to her own in its fire and in courage to carry on the conflict.
O mother Church truly holy, whose glory God deigns to illumine, whom the glorious blood of conquering martyrs adorns, whom the white robes of virgins clothe with an inviolate confession of faith, roses and lilies are not wanting to your garlands. Dearly beloved, let each one of us fight that he may gain the high dignity of one or the other of these honours, either the white crown of virginity, or the red crown of martyrdom. In the heavenly camps, both peace and war have their own garlands with which the soldiers of Christ are crowned.
The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.
For the ineffable and limitless goodness of God has provided that the time of both toil and struggle shall not be prolonged unduly, nor drawn-out and without end, but brief, and as I might say, of a moment. Therefore, although in this short and difficult life there may be labours and struggles, in that life which is eternal there are crowns and rewards of merits. The struggles are soon over, the rewards for merits last forever. God in his goodness has provided, too, that after the darkness of this life they shall see an exceedingly great radiance, they shall receive blessedness far beyond the bitterness of all their torment. The Apostle bears witness of this when he says, “The sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us.” [Romans 8:18]
– St Bede the Venerable, Priest, Sermon 18 on the Saints, from: An Approved English Translation of the Breviarium Romanum, Burns & Oates, London, 1964