Saturday, 29 October 2011

For All the Saints


This Sunday in sunny Edinburgh, we are keeping the Feast of All Saints (one of our 2 dedication fesitivals) rather than the Umpteenth Sunday after Trinity. Traditionally, this is kept on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2
The festival of All Saints really began in the West on May 13, 609 or 610, when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome (a wonderful pagan temple and a quite pleasant Church) to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated in Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the fifth until the seventh centuries in certain places there were sporadic celebrations on 13 May to remember the holy martyrs. However, some maintain that it has to do with the pagan observation on 13 May of the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of All Saints on the shared date and theme of "all the dead".

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III 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 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed.  This usually fell near the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to  Lemuria, but with overtones of a harvest festival. The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day in November, as historical documents suggest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches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 on April 20.  Typical of the Irish to do their own thing!

The November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 by the time 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 November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).
The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it acts as a general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between October 31 and November 6. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. 

Protestants generally regard all true believers as saints and, if they observe All Saints Day at al,l they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those that have died that were members of the local congregation.  In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed together on the Sunday before or after those dates, given that Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on October 31. Typically, Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is sung during the service. The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading out of the names of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day.  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.

The Eastern Orthodox follow the earlier tradition of commemorating all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost.  The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI "the Wise" (886–911). His wife, Empress Theophano—commemorated on December 16—lived a devout life. After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints," so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

"Almighty God,
you have knit together your elect
in one communion and fellowship
   in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:
grant us grace so to follow your blessèd saints
in all virtuous and godly living
that we may come to those inexpressible joys
that you have prepared for those who truly love you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen"


  1. Dear Dougal, This morning I came across a comment you made some time ago on another website:"Mgr Patrick Burke of the CDF" Is this the same patrick Burke who was PP of St Joseph's Burntisland in Fife? If so, I was his ecclesiatical landlord in Kinghorn (RC's used our building after their church fell down a mineshaft). Nice chap, smart, hardline and knows full well FiF has more woof woofs than Battersea Dogs Home! (17 February 2010 17:27)

    Obviously I cannot know whether or not you heard any more about this, but it is indeed the same guy. He has but recently completed his sixth year at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He may in the not too distant future return to Scotland.

    Cardinal O'Brien has asked Rome to appoint him an Auxiliary Bishop but there is a strong possibility that he may instead receive a coadjutor archbishop with rights of succession.

    Since, Keith Patrick is a Cardinal Metropolitan Archbishop his request for an Auxiliary will have to be put before the Pope, which is not usually done (usually all that happens is that the Congregation for Bishops would send a memo to His Holiness for his initials on their recommendation).

    While doing his doctorate on Rahner, Paddy boy spent three years staying at the Teutonic College in the Vatican and Pope Benedict knows him well. And, he greatly respects his intellectual/academic abilities. His views of him as a priest I would not know, but I do know that he made him a Monsignor a year-and-a-half ahead of schedule! So, if you can get a decent price at Ladbrokes...

  2. Thanks Hughie! I'm not at all surprised at this. Patrick had the mark of one who was going very high indeed when I knew him. Coadjutor is an unsual step but not I think a silly one. At least the liturgical standards of the Archdiocese will improve!