Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Feast of All Saints

All Saints' Day, All Hallows, Hallowmas ("hallows" meaning "saints," and "mas" meaning "Mass"), is a feast celebrated on November 1 or on the first Sunday after Pentecost in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Halloween is the day preceding it, and is so named because it is "The Eve of All Hallows". All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown. In terms of Catholic theology, the feast remembers all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven, while the next day, All Souls' Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven.

In the early Church, Christians would celebrate the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ (known as the saint's "birth day") by serving an All-Night Vigil, and then celebrating the Eucharist over their tomb or place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to transfer relics, and to celebrate the feast days of specific martyrs in common. Frequently, a number of Christians would suffer martyrdom on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all.

A commemoration of "All Martyrs" began to be celebrated as early as the year 270, although no specific month or date are mentioned in existing records. The first trace of a general celebration on a specific day is attested in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. There is mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and the custom is also referred to in the 74th Homily of St. John Chrysostom (†407), who speaks of a "feast of martyrs of the whole world." As early as 411, there is found among the Chaldean Christians a general commemoration of all Confessors (Commemoratio Confessorum), celebrated on the Friday after Easter.

The Western Christian holiday of All Saints Day (called Festum omnium sanctorum in Latin) falls on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church, with a vigil. This feast used to have an octave. The octave was abrogated in 1955 along with other octaves.

A similar festival to All Saints celebrated in the West dates to May 13 in 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which were propitiated the malevolent and restless spirits of all the dead. The medieval liturgiologists based the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of all the dead. The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to November 1. This coincided with the Celtic pagan holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to that of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival.

The Irish, whose holiday Samhain had been, did not maintain this November 1 date for All Hallows Day, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration of All Hallows in Ireland took place in the spring: "...the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints upon 20 April." A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne. It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops," which confirmed its celebration on the 1st of November. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484).

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Church of England and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the first Saturday of November. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada and the Wesleyan Church.

In the United Methodist Church, All Saint's Day on the first Sunday of November. It is held to remember all those that have passed away from the local church congregation. A candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out. Then, a liturgical prayer is offered for each soul in Heaven.

In Portugal, Spain and Mexico, ofrendas (offerings) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Belgium, France, Hungary, Italy, Portugal and Spain people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives.

In Poland, Czech, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria, Romania, Hungary and Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

In the Philippines, the day is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where they offer prayers, lay flowers, and light candles.

In English speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Propers for All Saints

The Collect:

O ALMIGHTY God, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Epistle - Revelation vii. 2:

AND I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God: and he cried with a loud voice to the four angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees, till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads. And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel. After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and peoples, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God, saying, Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen. And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, What are these which are arrayed in white robes? and whence came they? And I said unto him, Sir, thou knowest. And he said to me, These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.

The Gospel - St. Matthew v. 1:

JESUS seeing the multitudes, went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: and he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for their's is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

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