(LifeSiteNews) — “I saw a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands: and they cried with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation to our God!'” (Apocalypse 7:9-10)
Time is no more; it is the human race eternally saved, that is thus presented in vision to the prophet of Patmos. Our life of struggle and suffering on earth is, then, to have an end. Our long lost race is to fill up the angelic ranks thinned by Satan’s revolt; and, uniting in the gratitude of the redeemed of the Lamb, the faithful spirits will sing with us: “Thanksgiving, honor, and power, and strength to our God for ever and ever!” (Apocalypse 7:11-14)
And this shall be the end, as the Apostle says; (1 Corinthians 15:24) the end of death and suffering; the end of history and of its revolutions which will then be explained. The old enemy, hurled down with his followers into the abyss, will live on only to witness his own eternal defeat. The Son of Man, the Savior of the world, will have delivered the kingdom to God His Father; and God, the last end of creation and of redemption, will be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)
Long before the seer of the Apocalypse, Isaias sang: “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and elevated, and his train filled the temple.” And the Seraphim “cried one to another, and said: Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God of hosts, all the earth is full of his glory.” (Isaiah 6:1-3) The train and fringes of God’s vesture are the elect, who are the adornment of the Word, the splendor of the Father. For since the Word has espoused our human nature, that nature is his glory, as he is the glory of God. The Bride herself is clothed with the justifications of the saints; and when this glittering robe is perfected, the signal will be given for the end of time. This feast announces the ever-growing nearness of the eternal nuptials; for on it we annually celebrate the progress of the Bride’s preparations.
“Blessed are they that are called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb!” (Apocalypse 19:9) Blessed are we all, who have received in Baptism the nuptial robe of holy charity, which entitles us to a seat at the heavenly banquet! Let us prepare ourselves for the unspeakable destiny reserved for us by love. To this end are directed all the labors of this life: toils, struggles, sufferings for God’s sake, all adorn with priceless jewels the garment of grace, the clothing of the elect. “Blessed are they that mourn!” (Matthew 5:5)
They that have gone before us wept as they turned the furrows and cast in the seed; but now their triumphant joy overflows upon us as an anticipated glory in this valley of tears. Without waiting for the dawn of eternity, the present solemnity gives us to enter by hope into the land of light, whither our fathers have followed Jesus the divine forerunner. Do not the thorns of suffering lose their sharpness at the sight of the eternal joys into which they are to blossom? Does not the happiness of the dear departed cause a heavenly sweetness to mingle with our sorrow? Let us hearken to the chants of deliverance sung by those for whom we weep; little and great, this is the feast of them all, as it will one day be ours.
At this season, when cold and darkness prevail, nature herself, stripping off her last adornments, seems to be preparing the world for the passage of the human race into the heavenly country. Let us, then, sing with the Psalmist:
I rejoiced at the things that were said to me: we shall go into the house of the Lord. Our feet as yet stand only in thy outer courts; but we see thy building ever going on, O Jerusalem, city of peace, compacted together in concord and love. To thee do the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, praising the name of the Lord; thy vacant seats are being filled up. May all good things be for them that love thee, O Jerusalem; may peace be in thy strength, and abundance in thy towers. For the sake of my brethren and of my neighbors, who are already thy inhabitants, I take pleasure in thee; because of the Lord our God, whose dwelling thou art, I have placed in thee all my desire. (Psalm 121)
The bells ring out as joyously as on the brightest days. They announce the great solemnity of the closing cycle; the feast which shows us time stamped with the impress of eternity, and God taking possession of the declining year and gathering in its harvest.
At the sound of their triumphant and harmonious peals, the Church, prostrate and fasting since morning, raises her brow to the light. Guided by St. John, she penetrates the secrets of heaven ; and the words of the beloved disciple, uttered by her lips, assume a tone of incomparable enthusiasm. This feast is truly the triumph of her motherhood; for the great crowd of the blessed before the throne of the Lamb, are the sons and daughters she alone has given to the Lord.
1. ANT. I saw a great multitude which no man could number, of all nations, standing before the throne.
Ps. Dixit Dominus.
Beside her own glorified sons the Church beholds the angels, with their magnificent ritual and their prostrate adoration. Her heart is enraptured at the scene, and she describes it to those who are still militant on earth with her.
2. ANT. And all the Angels stood round about the throne, and they fell down before the throne upon their faces, and adored God.
Ps. Confitebor tibi Domine.
But the uninterrupted homage and chants of the heavenly princes, are not the only glory rendered to the Most High in His eternal temple. As, even in the midst of a numerous choir, a mother can distinguish the voice of her child, so the Church exults to hear the family she has brought up for her Spouse, joining in the heavenly concert and celebrating the Lamb, whose blood has purchased them the kingdom of God.
3. ANT. O Lord God, thou hast redeemed us in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and hast made us a kingdom to our God.
Ps. Beatus vir.
This is the true joy, the ineffable consolation of this day; and the exiled Church cannot refrain from sending up a burning appeal to the saints, to praise the Lord if possible with still greater zeal. “Be happy, all of you, and sing to him,” she cries out from this valley of tears, borrowing the words of Tobias in the land of his captivity.
4. ANT. Bless ye the Lord, all his elect, keep days of joy, and give glory to him.
Ps. Laudate pueri.
To praise God unceasingly is the lot of the saints, Israel’s goodly inheritance in the true Sion. The Church, in her transport, wearies not of extolling this glorious lot, this better part, privilege of a few on earth, but enjoyed by all in heaven.
5. ANT. A hymn to all his saints; to the children of Israel, a people approaching to him: this glory is to all his saints.
O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people.
For his mercy is confirmed upon us: and the truth of the Lord remaineth forever.
No power can lessen the glory of the holy city, or diminish the number of its happy inhabitants, which was fixed before all ages in the counsels of the Most High. Although the world is only too deserving of wrath, it cannot be consumed until it has furnished heaven with the last of the elect. This is expressed in a lively manner by the Capitulum, taken from the Apocalypse.
CAPITULUM (Apocalypse vii)
Lo, I John saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the sign 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, nor the sea, nor the trees, till we sign the servants of our God in their foreheads.’
Rabanus Maurus, Abbot of Fulda and Archbishop of Mayence, is supposed to be the author of the following hymn. The perfidious nation, whose expulsion from Christian lands is prayed for, was in the ninth century the race of infidel Normans, who filled the empire with slaughter and ruin under Charlemagne’s weak successors.
The striking conversion of these savage destroyers was the answer of the saints. May they ever hear the Church’s prayers in a like manner, enlighten those who persecute her without knowing her, and make of them her firmest supporters.
O Christ, be propitious to thy servants, for whom thy Virgin Mother stands as advocate before the throne of grace, imploring the Father’s mercy.
Ninefold circle of blessed choirs, drive far from us all evils, past, present, and to come.
Apostles and prophets, plead before the terrible Judge, and, for the unfeigned tears of us poor sinners, obtain our pardon.
Ye martyrs crimson-clad, ye confessors with snow-white wreaths, call us from exile into our fatherland.
Spotless choirs of virgins and ye who from the desert have sped beyond the stars, give us a place among your heavenly thrones.
Drive the perfidious race far from Christian lands, that we may all be gathered by one Pastor into the one fold.
Glory be to God the Father, and to his only Son, together with the holy Paraclete, through everlasting ages. Amen.
℣. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice ye just,
℟. And glory all ye right of heart.
All the choirs of angels, all the ranks of the saints receive, in the Magnificat Antiphon, the homage of the Church’s prayer; and all will join in praising the Queen of Heaven and Earth, by singing her own glorious Canticle.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT
Ye Angels and Archangels, Thrones and Dominations, Principalities and Powers, Virtues of the heavens, Cherubim and Seraphim, Patriarchs and Prophets, holy Doctors of the law, Apostles, all ye Martyrs of Christ, holy Confessors, Virgins of the Lord, Anchorets, and all ye Saints, make intercession for us.
The Canticle Magnificat
O Almighty, everlasting God, who hast granted us to venerate in one solemnity the merits of all thy Saints, we beseech thee, that as our intercessors are multiplied, thou wouldst bestow upon us the desired abundance of thy mercy. Through our Lord.
When Rome had completed the conquest of the world, she dedicated to all the gods, in token of her gratitude, the Pantheon, the most durable monument of her power. But when she herself had been conquered by Christ, and invested by him with the empire over souls, she withdrew her homage from vain idols and offered it to the martyrs; for they, praying for her as she slew them, had rendered her truly eternal. To the martyrs then, and to Mary their queen, she consecrated for ever, on the morrow of her merciful chastisement, the now purified Pantheon.
“Come forth from your dwellings, ye saints of God, hasten to the place prepared for you.” (Pontificate Rom. Ant. in Eccl. dedicatione) For three centuries the catacombs were the resting-place of our Lord’s athletes, when they were borne from the arena. These valiant warriors deserved the honors of a triumph far better than did the great victors of old. In 312, however, Rome disarmed but not yet changed in heart, was not at all disposed to applaud the men who had conquered the gods of Olympus and of the Capitol. While the Cross surmounted her ramparts, the white-robed army still lay entrenched in the subterranean crypts that surrounded the city like so many outworks.
Three centuries more were granted to Rome, that she might make satisfaction to God’s justice, and take full cognizance of the salvation reserved for her by His mercy. In 609 the patient work of grace was completed; the Sovereign Pontiff Boniface IV uttered the word for the sacred crypts to yield up their treasures. It was a solemn moment, a forerunner of that wherein the angel’s trumpet-call shall sound over the sepulchers of the world. (Sequence Dies ire)
The successor of St. Peter, in all his apostolic majesty, and surrounded by an immense crowd, presented himself at the entrance of the catacombs. He was attended by eighteen chariots magnificently adorned for the conveyance of the martyrs. The ancient triumphal way opened before the saints; the sons of the Quirites sang in their honor:
You shall come with joy and proceed with gladness; for behold, the mountains and the hills exult, awaiting you with joy. Arise, ye saints of God, come forth from your hiding-places; enter into Rome, which is now the holy city; bless the Roman people following you to the temple of the false gods, which is now dedicated as your own church, there to adore together with you the majesty of the Lord. (Pontificate Rom. Ant. in Eccl. dedicatione)
Thus, after six centuries of persecution and destruction, the martyrs had the last word; and it was a word of blessing, a signal of grace for the great city hitherto drunk with the blood of Christians. More than rehabilitated by the reception she was giving to the witnesses of Christ, she was now not merely Rome, but the new Sion, the privileged city of the Lord. She now burned before the saints the incense they had refused to offer to her idols ; their blood had flowed before the very altar on which she now invited them to rest, since the usurpers had been hurled back into the abyss.
It was a happy inspiration that induced her, when she dedicated to the holy martyrs the temple built by Marcus Agrippa and restored by Severus Augustus, to leave upon its pediment the names of its primitive constructors and the title they had given it; for then only did the famous monument truly merit its name, when Christian Rome could apply to the new inhabitants of the Pantheon those words of the psalm: “I have said, you are gods.” (Psalm 81:6) The thirteenth of May was the day of their triumphant installation.
Every dedication on earth reminds the Church, as she herself tells us, of the assembly of the saints, the living stones of the eternal dwelling which God is building for Himself in heaven. (Collecta in die Dedications Altaris; Postcomm. Anniv. Ded. Eccl.) It is not astonishing, then, that the dedication of Agrippa’s Pantheon, under the above-mentioned circumstances, should have originated the feast of today. (Martyrolog. ad hanc diem.) Its anniversary, recalling the memory of the martyrs collectively, satisfied the Church’s desire of honoring year by year all her blessed sons who had died for the Lord; for, at an early date it became impossible to celebrate each of them on the day of his glorious death.
In the age of peace there was added to the cultus of the martyrs that of the other just, who daily sanctified themselves in all the paths of heroism opened out to Christian courage. The thought of uniting these with the former in one common solemnity, which would supply for the unavoidable omission of many of them, followed naturally upon the initiative given by Boniface IV.
In 732, in the first half of that eighth century which was such a grand age for the Church, Gregory III dedicated, at St. Peter’s on the Vatican, “an oratory in honor of the Savior, of his Blessed Mother, of the holy apostles, of all the holy martyrs, confessors, and perfect just, who repose throughout the world.” (Lib pontific. in Gregorio III.) A dedication under so extensive a title did not, it is true, imply the establishment of our feast of All Saints by the illustrious pontiff; yet from this period it began to be celebrated by divers churches, and that too on the first of November; as is attested, with regard to England, by Venerable Bede’s Martyrology and the Pontifical of Egbert of York. It was far, however, from being universal, when in the year 835 Louis le Debonnaire, at the request of Gregory IV, and with the consent of all the bishops of his realm, made its celebration obligatory by law. This decree was welcomed by the whole Church and adopted as her own, says Ado, with reverence and love. (Ado. Martyrol.)
The councils of Spain and Gaul, as early as the sixth century, (Concil. Gerund, an. 517, can. 3; Lugdun. II. an. 567, can. 1.) mention a custom then existing, of sanctifying the commencement of November by three days of penance and litanies, like the Rogation days which precede the feast of our Lord’s Ascension. The fast on the Vigil of All Saints is the only remaining vestige of this custom of our forefathers, who, after the institution of the feast, advanced the triduum of penance, so as to make it a preparation for the solemnity itself. “Let our devotion be complete,” is the recommendation of a contemporaneous author; “let us prepare ourselves for this most holy solemnity by three days of fasting, prayer, and almsdeeds.” (Inter Opera ALUINI, Epist. xci. ad calcem.)
When extended to the entire world, the feast became complete; it was made equal to the greatest solemnities, and widened its horizon till it reached the infinite, embracing uncreated as well as created sanctity. Its object was now not only Mary and the martyrs; not only all the just children of Adam, but moreover the nine choirs of angels, and above all the Holy Trinity itself, God who is all in all, the King of kings, that is, of the saints, the God of gods in Sion.
Hear how the Church awakes her children on this day: “Come let us adore the Lord, the King of kings, for he is the crown of all the saints.” (Invitatory of the Feast.) Such was the invitation addressed by our Lord Himself to St. Mechtilde, the chantress of Helfta, the privileged one of His divine Heart: “Praise me, for that I am the crown of all the saints.” The virgin then beheld all the beauty of the elect and their glory drawing increase from the blood of Christ, and resplendent with the virtues practiced by Him; and responding to our Lord’s appeal, she praised with all her might the blissful and ever adorable Trinity, for deigning to be to the saints their diadem and their admirable dignity. (Liber specialis gratiae, P. I. cap . xxxi.)
Dante too describes Beatrice in the highest heaven, forming her crown of the reflection of the eternal rays:
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, sang the inhabitants of Paradise with one voice. I seemed, says the sublime poet, to behold a smile of the universe. The kingdom of bliss, with all its people both ancient and new, turned look and love all towards one point. O triple light, which shining in a single star dost so delight them, look down upon our tempests! (Dante, Paradiso, xxvii, xxxi.)
In many churches, the ancient Office of the feast, up to the sixteenth century, had this peculiarity, that at the Nocturns the first Antiphon, the first Blessing, the first Lesson, and the first Responsory treated of the Blessed Trinity; the second of these respective pieces spoke of Our Lady, the third of the angels, the fourth of the patriarchs and prophets, the fifth of the apostles, the sixth of the martyrs; the seventh of the confessors, the eighth of the virgins, the ninth of all the saints.
On this account the first Lesson, contrary to the custom of the rest of the year, was given to the highest dignitary of the choir, and the first Responsory to the first cantors. The rest followed in order down to the children ; one of whom sang the Lesson of the virgins, and five others, clothed in white and holding lighted tapers in their hands in memory of the five wise virgins, sang the eighth Responsory before the Lady Altar. The ninth Lesson and Responsory were again chanted by priests. All, or nearly all, of these customs have been successively modified; but the arrangement of the Responsories remains the same.
Our readers will be glad to find here the primitive Antiphons and Responsories referred to in the visions of saints, who show us each order of the blessed in heaven taking part, during this sacred night, in the prayers and thanksgivings of earth. The following texts are found alike in the Breviaries of Aberdeen and Salisbury.
1. Ant. Be propitious to us, O God, who art One and Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
2. Ant. As the lily among thorns, so is my beloved among the daughters.
3. Ant. Let us praise the Lord, whom the Angels praise, whom Cherubim and Seraphim proclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy.
4. Ant. Among those born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist.
5. Ant. Be valiant in war and fight with the old serpent, and you shall receive an eternal kingdom. Alleluia.
6. Ant. These are the holy ones, who for the love of God despised the threats of men ; the holy Martyrs now rejoice with the Angels in the eternal kingdom : On how precious is the death of the Saints, who continually stand before the Lord, and are not separated from one another.
7. Ant. Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands; and you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding.
8. Ant. Holy Virgins of God, pray for us, that through you we may deserve to obtain pardon of our crimes.
9. Ant. Sing praise to our God, all bis Saints, and you that fear the Lord, little and great, for the Lord our God Almighty hath reigned: let us rejoice and exult, and give glory to him.
1. ℟. To the most high Trinity, to the indivisible God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be one divinity, equal glory, co-eternal majesty. * Who subjects the whole world to his laws.
℣. May the blessed Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and likewise of the Holy Spirit, grant us grace. * Who subjects the whole world to his laws.
2. ℟. Happy art thou, 0 holy Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise: * For from thee arose the Sun of justice, Christ our God.
℣. Pray for the people, plead for the clergy, intercede for the devout female sex, let all experience thy aid who celebrate thy solemnity. * For from thee.
3. ℟. Thee, holy Lord, all the Angels praise on high, saying: * To thee beseemeth * Praise and honor, O Lord.
℣. The Cherubim also and the Seraphim cry out, Holy; and every heavenly rank, saying: * To thee beseemeth. Glory be to the Father. * Praise and honor.
4. ℟. Among those born of women there hath not arisen a greater than John the Baptist: * Who prepared the way for the Lord in the desert.
℣. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. * Who prepared.
5. ℟.The fellow-citizens of the Apostles and the servants of God have come before us today: * Bearing a torch and enlightening our fatherland, to give peace to the nations, and to deliver the people of the Lord.
℣. Hear the prayers of suppliants imploring the rewards of eternal life, O ye who bear in your hands the sheaves of justice, and who come today rejoicing. * Bearing.
6. ℟.0 praiseworthy constancy of the Martyrs; O inextinguishable charity; O invincible patience! although under the tortures of the persecutors it appeared despicable, * It shall be found worthy of praise and glory and honor, * In the time of retribution.
℣. Therefore we pray that they may assist us with their blessed merits, now that they are honored by the Father who is in heaven. * It shall be found. Glory be to the Father. * In the time.
7. ℟.Let your loins be girt and lamps burning in your hands. * And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when lie shall return from the wedding.
℣. Watch ye therefore, because you know not what hour your Lord will come. * And you yourselves.
8. ℟. I heard a voice coming from heaven: Come all ye most wise Virgins: * Keep oil ready in your vessels, for when the Spouse shall come.
℣. At midnight there was a cry made: Behold the Bridegroom cometh. * Keep oil.
9. ℟. Grant us, O Lord we beseech thee, the pardon of our sins; and through the intercession of thy Saints whose solemnity we celebrate today: * Bestow upon us such great devotion, * That we may deserve to be admitted into their company.
℣. May their merits assist us, who are hindered by our own crimes; may their intercession excuse us, who are accused by our own deeds; and thou who hast bestowed on them the palm of heavenly victory, refuse not to us the pardon of our sins. * Bestow upon us. Glory be to the Father. * That we may.
The Greeks honor with us, on one common solemnity, “all the saints of all the countries on earth, of Asia, Lybia, and Europe, of North and South.” (Pentecostarion, in Dominica Sanctorum omnium.) But, whereas the West celebrates at the close of the year a feast which represents the gathering of the harvest into our heavenly Father’s granary, the East keeps it on the first Sunday after Pentecost, in that spring-time of the Church, when, under the action of the Holy Ghost, sanctity was everywhere beginning to blossom. (Leon. Philosoph. Oratio xv. In universæ terræ Sanctos universos.) We find it thus as early as the fourth century; for it was on this first Sunday after Pentecost, which with us Latins is now the feast of the Most Holy Trinity, that St. John Chrysostom pronounced his discourse in honor of “all the martyrs, who have suffered throughout the world.” (Chrys. Opera ii, 711)
In the West also as we have seen, the origin of All Saints’ feast was this general commemoration of the martyrs. This latter was placed by some Eastern churches on the Friday within the Octave of Easter (Calendaria Syrorum et Chaldæorum). It was a happy thought thus to associate the confession of Christ’s witnesses with the victory over death won by Him, whose divine confession before Pontius Pilate had been an example and a support to them in presence of their executioners. Indeed, Rome herself had had the same inspiration, when she made her solemn commemoration of the martyrs in the beginning of May; and she still reserves to the martyrs and apostles the honor of having a special Office for the whole of Paschal time.
We borrow the following passages from the Greek Office for the “Sunday of All Saints.”
IN MAGNO VESPERTINO
The disciples of the Lord, the instruments of the Spirit, scattered throughout the world the seed of the divine word: whence sprang the martyrs who intercede for our souls.
Support of the Church, perfection of the Gospel, O godlike choir of martyrs, ye fulfilled the words of our Savior. For, the gates of hell wide yawning against the Church ye have closed and bolted; by the shedding of your blood ye dried up the libations of the idols; your immolation gave birth to the fullness of believers. O admiration of the angels, ye stand crowned before God; beseech Him unceasingly for our souls.
Come, all ye faithful; let us celebrate with psalms and hymns and spiritual canticles the solemnity of all the saints: behold it comes, bringing us the richest gifts. Therefore let us cry out and say: Hail, company of prophets, who announced to the world the coming of Christ, seeing things afar off as though they were at hand. Hail, choir of apostles, fishers of men, casting your net among the nations. Hail, army of martyrs, brought together from the ends of the earth into one faith; ye endured, for that faith, injuries and torments, and gloriously won your laurels in the contest. Hail, honey-laden hive of the Fathers; who, having macerated your bodies with austerities, and mortified the passions of the flesh, raised your mind with divine love, as it were on wings, soaring even to heaven, where rejoicing with the angels ye possess a blessed eternity. And now, O prophets, o apostles, 0 martyrs and ascetics, earnestly implore Him who has crowned you to save us from our enemies both visible and invisible.
Hail, ye saints and just ones; hail, praiseworthy choir of holy women. Intercede with Christ for the world; that He may give to our prince victory over the barbarians, and to our souls His great mercy.
Ancient documents referring to this day inform us that on the Kalends of November the same eagerness was shown us as at Christmas to assist at the holy sacrifice (Lectiones antiquæ Breviarii Romani ad hanc diem). However general the feast was, or rather because of its universality, was it not the special joy of everyone, and the honor of Christian families? Taking a holy pride in the persons whose virtues they handed down to posterity, they considered the heavenly glory of their ancestors, who had perhaps been unknown in the world, to be a higher nobility than any earthly dignity.
Faith was lively in those days, and Christians seized the opportunity of this feast to make amends for the neglect, voluntary or involuntary, suffered during the year by the blessed inscribed on the general calendar. In the famous Bull Transiturus de hoc mundo, by which he established the feast of Corpus Christi, Urban IV mentions this as one of the motives that had led to the prior institution of All Saints, (HILTROP. Ordo Rom.) and expresses a hope that the new solemnity may in like manner compensate for the distractions and coldness of the rest of the year towards this divine sacrament, wherein he resides who is the crown and the glory of all saints. (Cap. ‘Si Dominum,’ De Reliquiis et Veneratione Sanctorum. Clementin. 3:16)
The Introit Antiphon resembles that of Our Lady’s Assumption day. This feast is indeed a sequel to Mary’s triumph. As our Lord’s Ascension called for His mother’s Assumption, both required for their completion the universal glorification of the human race which provides heaven with its king and queen. Joy, then, on earth, which continues thus magnificently to give its fruit! Joy among the angels, who see their vacant thrones filled up! Joy, says the Verse, to all the blessed, who are receiving the congratulations of heaven and earth!
Let us all rejoice in the Lord, celebrating a festival day in honor of all the Saints: at whose solemnity the Angels rejoice, and give praise to the Son of God.
Ps. Rejoice in the Lord, ye just: praise becometh the upright. Glory be to the Father. Let us all…
But we sinners, who are still in exile, have always and everywhere need of mercy. Today we may well hope for it, since so many are interceding for us. If the prayer of one saint is powerful, what must be the united suffrages of all heaven!
O Almighty, everlasting God, who has granted us to venerate in one solemnity the merits of all thy Saints; we beseech thee, that as our intercessors are multiplied, thou wouldst bestow upon us the desired abundance of thy mercy. Through, etc.
Lesson from the Book of the Apocalypse of blessed John the Apostle 7:2-12
At the time of his birth, the Man-God, through the instrumentality of Cæsar Augustus, took a census of the world; it was fitting that on the eve of the Redemption, the statistics of the human race should be officially registered. And now it is time to make a fresh enrollment, and to enter in the Book of Life the results of the work of Redemption.
“Wherefore this numbering of the world at the time of our Lord’s birth,” says St. Gregory in one of the Christmas homilies, “save for this manifest reason, that he was appearing in the flesh, who is to enregister the elect in eternity?” (Lectio vii. in Nocte Natal. Domini; ex Homil. viii in Ev.) But many, having withdrawn themselves by their own fault from the benefit of the first enrollment, which included all men in the ranks of those to be redeemed, there was need of a second and definitive registration, which should cancel the names of the guilty. “Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and with the just let them not be written” (Psalm 68:29); such are the words of the psalmist, quoted by St. Gregory in the above-mentioned homily.
Today, however, the Church is too full of joy to think of any but the elect; they alone take part in the glorious close of human history described in the Epistle. Indeed, they alone are reckoned before God; the reprobate are but the waste of a world where sanctity alone responds to the Creator’s advances, to the ventures of His infinite love. Let our souls be supple to receive the divine stamp, which is to render us comformable to the image of the only-begotten Son, and mark us out as God’s coin.
Whoever is unwilling to receive the divine impress will inevitably be marked with the “character of the beast”; (Apocalypse 13:16) and when the angels come to make the final settlement, every coin unfit to bear the divine stamp will fall into the furnace, where the dross will burn eternally.
Let us, then, as the Gradual recommends, live in fear; not that of the slave, who dreads punishment, but that filial fear, which is anxious never to displease him from whom are all good things, and whose kindness deserves all our love in return. Without losing aught of their beatitude, or diminishing their love, the angelic Powers and all the saints in heaven prostrate with a holy trembling beneath the gaze of God’s awful majesty. (Cf. Præfat. Missæ.)
Fear the Lord, all ye his Saints: for there is no want to them that fear him.
℣. But they that seek the Lord shall not be deprived of any good.
℣. Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. Alleluia.
Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Matthew 5:1-12
Earth is so near to heaven today that the one thought which fills all hearts is happiness. The Friend, the Bridegroom, the divine Brother of Adam’s children, comes and sits down among them, and talks of blessedness: “Come to me all you that labor and suffer,” sang the Alleluia-Verse, that sweet echo from our fatherland reminding us withal of our exile. And immediately in the Gospel appears the goodness and kindness of God our Savior. Let us listen to him, teaching us the ways of blessed hope, the holy delights which are at once an assurance and a foretaste of the perfect bliss of heaven.
On Sinai Jehovah held the Jew at a distance, giving him precepts under pain of death. On the summit of this other mountain where the Son of God is seated how differently the law of love is promulgated! In the New Testament, the eight beatitudes have taken the place occupied in the Old by the Decalogue graven on stone. Not that the beatitudes repeal the Commandments; but their superabundant justice goes far beyond all prescriptions. It is from His Heart that Jesus brought them forth in order to imprint them, more lastingly than on stone, in the hearts of His people. They are the portrait of the Son of Man, the summary of our Redeemer’s life. Look, then, and do “according to the pattern that was shown thee in the mount.” (Exodus 25:40)
Poverty was the first mark of our God in Bethlehem; and who ever appeared so meek as Mary’s child? Who wept for more noble causes than He in His crib, where He was already expiating our sins and appeasing His Father? They that hunger after justice, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peace-makers: where, save in Him, will they find the incomparable ideal, never attained yet ever imitable? And by His death He became the leader of all those who are persecuted for justice’s sake. In this the highest beatitude on earth, the Incarnate Word takes delight, returning upon it, detailing it, and closing with it in today’s Gospel as with a song of ecstasy. The Church has never had any other ideal; she has ever walked in the footsteps of her Spouse, and her history, throughout the ages, has been but the prolonged echo of the Beatitudes. Let us also understand that we may be blessed both in this world and in the next, let us follow our Lord and the Church.
The evangelical beatitudes raise man above torments, above death itself, which disturbs not the peace of the just, but consummates it. Such is the burden of the Offertory chant, taken from the book of Wisdom.
The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them: in the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace. Alleluia.
As the Secret explains, the sacrifice in which we are allowed to take part glorifies God, honors the saints, and renders the divine goodness propitious to us.
We offer to thee, O Lord, the gifts of our devotion; and may they be pleasing to thee in honor of the just, and be made salutary to us by thy mercy. Through our Lord.
The Communion Antiphon, like an echo of the Gospel, repeats the last three beatitudes, referring them, and rightly, to the divine sacrament whereby they are nourished.
Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God: blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God: blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
In the Postcommunion, the Church asks as the fruit of this feast that her children may always honor the saints, and ever benefit by their favor with God.
Grant, we beseech thee O Lord, to thy faithful people, ever to rejoice in the veneration of all the Saints, and to be defended by their perpetual supplication. Through, etc.
The Second Vespers are the same as the First, except the last Psalm, the Versicle, and the Magnificat Antiphon. The Psalm, which is as follows, puts upon the lips of the saints a beautiful summary of their life of faith and suffering here on earth, and of their eternal gratitude and praise in heaven.
I have believed, therefore have I spoken: but I have been humbled exceedingly.
I said in my excess: Every man is a liar.
What shall I render to the Lord, for all the things that he hath rendered to me?
I will take the chalice of salvation; and I will call upon the name of tbe Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord, before all his people: precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
O Lord, for I am thy servant: I am thy servant and the son of thy handmaid.
Thou hast broken my bonds: I will sacrifice to thee the sacrifice of praise, and I will call upon the name of the Lord.
I will pay my vows to the Lord in the sight of all his people; in the courts of the house of the Lord, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem!
℣. The Saints shall rejoice in glory.
℟. They shall be joyful in their beds.
ANTIPHON OF THE MAGNIFICAT
Oh! how glorious is the kingdom, where all the Saints rejoice with Christ; clothed in white robes, they follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth!
This Antiphon which expresses at once an unspeakable delight and a patient longing, closes the solemnity of the saints. But the Church’s day is not yet ended. Scarcely has she given the last salute to her glorious sons disappearing in their white robes in the train of the Lamb, when an innumerable crowd of suffering souls surrounds her at the gate of heaven; and to these she at once lends her voice and her heart. The glittering vestments, which reminded her of the snowy garments of the blessed, are changed for the color of mourning; the ornaments and flowers disappear from the altar; the organ is hushed; the bells ring a plaintive knell. Without any transition, the Vespers of All Saints’ are followed by the Vespers of the Dead. (If the morrow of All Saints’ be a Sunday, the Commemoration of the Dead is transferred to the Monday.)
VESPERS OF THE DEAD
No human science or eloquence could ever reach the depth of teaching, the power of soul-stirring supplication contained in the Office of the Dead. This intimate knowledge of the secrets of the other world, and of the way to win the Heart of her Spouse, belongs to the Bride alone; and she alone, the true mother of men, is able with exquisite tact to console the orphans and the bereaved, by shortening the painful purification of those who have passed away.
Dilexi: this first song of the holy souls is all love; as the Credidi, the last Psalm sung by the heavenly citizens on this feast, recalled their faith, and the trials they have endured on earth. We have just remarked that there is no transition between the two solemnities. What need of any? The suffering souls and the blessed, both are the captives of love; love gives them their dignity, and is their imperishable treasure.
In the case of the blessed, faith having given place to the vision of God, their love is highest bliss; but to the suffering souls, imprisoned in darkness by sins not yet expiated, love is the source of inexpressible pain. However, they are now free from the anxieties of this world, the pains of hell; they are confirmed in grace, and can never sin again; they are full of gratitude towards God who has saved them in his mercy, and in his justice is purifying them to make them worthy of himself. They are in a state of absolute and perfect resignation, and of calm expectancy, called by holy Church a “sleep of peace.” ( Canon Missæ)
ANT. I will please the Lord in the land of the living.
I have loved, because the Lord will hear the voice of my prayer.
Because he has inclined his ear to me, and in my days I will call to him.
The sorrows of death have surrounded me; and the dangers of hell are come upon me.
I have found tribulation and sorrow; and I have invoked the Name of the Lord.
O Lord, deliver my soul: the Lord is merciful and just: and our God shows mercy.
The Lord is the keeper of the little ones; I was humbled, and he delivered me.
Return, my soul, into thy rest: for the Lord hath been bountiful to thee.
Because he has delivered my soul from death, my eyes a from tears, and my feet from slipping.
I will please the Lord in the land of the living.
Instead of the usual doxology the Church makes, at the end of every Psalm, a fervent prayer for the departed.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
ANT. I will please the Lord in the land of the living.
The soul in Purgatory, separated from the body which weighed her down and distracted her by a thousand vain preoccupations, is now entirely absorbed by the one desire of becoming at length perfectly pleasing to God. Towards this end her whole energy is directed; and so too is the force of the torments for whose violence she is so grateful. Purgatory is a crucible where the dross of sin is burnt away, until every debt is canceled. When its flames have effaced every stain and every wrinkle that marred the soul’s beauty, then she flees away to her Spouse, truly a blessed one and sure of offering no obstacle to the complacent love of her Lord.
Yet to what a sad length her exile is prolonged! True she is united by charity to the inhabitants of heaven: but the fire which torments her is of the same nature as that of hell; her abode is nigh to that of the damned: she must endure the proximity of the infernal Cedar f and of those adversaries of all peace, the detestable demons, who attacked her unceasingly during her mortal life with their assaults and their snares, and who still with deceitful tongue accuse her before the throne of God. Presently we shall hear the Church imploring: “From the gate of hell deliver her!”
ANT. Woe is me, O Lord, that my sojourning is prolonged.
When I was in tribulation, I cried to the Lord; and he heard me.
O Lord, deliver my soul from unjust lips, and from a deceitful tongue.
What is to be given to thee, or what is to be added to thee: to a deceitful tongue?
The sharp arrows of the mighty: with coals of desolation.
Woe is me that my abode is prolonged. I have dwelt with the inhabitants of Cedar; my soul has been long a sojourner.
I was peaceable with those that hated peace; when I spoke to them, they insulted me for no reason.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine on them.
ANT. Woe is me, O Lord, that my sojourning is prolonged.
Yet the soul faints not; lifting up her eyes to the mountains, she feels that she can rely upon her Lord, and that she is abandoned neither by heaven which is expecting her arrival, nor by, her mother the Church on earth. Although Purgatory, where justice and peace meet and embrace, is so near to the region of endless weeping, it is still accessible to the angels. These august messengers comfort the soul with divine communications; while the blessed in heaven and the just on earth assist her with their prayers and suffrages. She is well assured that sin, the only real evil, can never touch her.
ANT. The Lord preserve thee from all evil : may the Lord keep thy soul.
I lifted up my eyes to the mountains: from whence my help will come.
My help is from the Lord: who made heaven and earth.
May he not suffer thy foot to stagger; and may he not slumber that keeps thee.
Lo, he will not slumber nor sleep: that keeps Israel.
Our Lord keeps thee, our Lord is thy protection: on thy right hand.
The sun shall not burn thee by day: nor the moon by night.
The Lord preserveth thee from all evil; may the Lord keep thy soul.
May the Lord keep thy coming in, and thy going out: from henceforth, now and forever.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine on them.
ANT. The Lord preserve thee from all evil: may the Lord keep thy soul.
Christian usage has appropriated Psalm 129 as the peculiar prayer for the dead; it is a cry of anguish, mingled with hope. The destitute condition of the holy souls is well calculated to touch our hearts. Though not yet in heaven, they no longer belong to earth, and have consequently lost those privileges whereby God compensates us for the dangers which surround us in our passage through this world of trial. Their perfect acts of love, of hope, of faith, and of resignation have no merit. Such unspeakable sufferings, accepted with their dispositions, would earn for us a reward equal to that of a thousand martyrs; yet to these souls they profit nothing, for all eternity, beyond the mere payment of the penalty exacted by the just judge.
Besides their inability to merit, they can no longer satisfy God’s justice by offering Him an equivalent such as He can accept. Their powerlessness to help themselves is more absolute than that of the paralytic of the Pool of Bethsaida: (John 5) the saving waters are left behind on earth, together with the holy sacrifice, the sacraments, and the use of the all powerful keys entrusted to the Church.
The Church, however, albeit she has no longer any jurisdiction over these poor souls, still feels towards them all a mother’s tenderness; nor has she lost her credit with the Spouse. She makes their prayer her own. Opening the treasure she has inherited from the plenteous redemption of the Lord, she makes an offering from her dowry to Him who gave it her, begging in return the deliverance of the captives, or at least an alleviation of their sufferings. Thus, all rights being duly respected, abundant mercy penetrates into the kingdom of inexorable justice.
ANT. If thou, O Lord, wilt mark iniquities. Lord, who shall bear it?
From the depths I cried unto thee, O Lord: Lord hear my voice.
Let thy ears be attentive: to the voice of my petition.
If thou wilt observe iniquities, O Lord: Lord, who shall sustain it?
Because with thee is propitiation: and for thy law I have expected thee, O Lord.
My soul has relied on his word: my soul has hoped in the Lord.
From the morning watch even until night: let Israel hope in the Lord.
Because with the Lord there is mercy: and with him plentiful redemption.
And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: And let perpetual light shine on them.
ANT. If thou wilt observe iniquities, O Lord; Lord who shall bear it?
I will praise thee for thou hast heard me. The Church’s prayer is never in vain. The last Psalm utters her gratitude, and that of the souls freed, by the Office we are now saying, from the abyss, or drawn nearer to heaven. The Church has prayed, and in answer to her prayer many who were captives this morning make their entrance into everlasting light on the evening of this beautiful feast; and they enhance its joy and glory at its close.
Let our hearts and our thoughts follow these new saints; they smile upon us, they thank us their brethren and children, as they ascend all radiant from the land of shadows singing; In the sight of angels I will sing to thee, O Lord; I will adore in thy holy temple. No; the Lord does not despise the works of his hands.
ANT. Despise not, O Lord, the works of thy hands.
I will praise thee, O Lord, with all my heart: because thou hast heard the words of my mouth.
I will sing to thee in the sight of angels: I will adore in thy holy temple, and I will give glory to thy name.
For thy mercy and thy truth; because thou hast magnified thy holy name above all.
In what day soever I shall call to thee, hear me: thou wilt increase strength in my soul.
Let all kings of the earth confess thee, O Lord; for they have heard all the words of thy mouth.
And let them sing in the ways of our Lord: because the glory of the Lord is great:
For the Lord is high, and he beholds the low things; and the high things he knows afar off.
If I shall walk in the midst of tribulation, thou wilt quicken me; and upon the wrath of my enemies thou hast stretched thy hand, and thy right hand has saved me.
The Lord will repay for me: thy mercy, O Lord, endureth forever: O despise not the works of thy hands.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: And let perpetual light shine upon them.
ANT. Despise not, O Lord, the works of thy hands.
And now from heaven itself, as if sent to us by the dear newly-delivered souls, comes this intimation of their happiness: (Apocalypse 14:13)
℣. I heard a voice from heaven saying to me:
℟. Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord.
The whole of this wonderful liturgical drama, which has been represented before us, points to the fulfillment of our Lord’s promise, (John 6:37) which the Church repeats in the following Antiphon.
ANTIPHON OP THE MAGNIFICAT
All that my Father gives me shall come to me; and him that comes to me I will not cast out.
But as in this world every grace from Jesus comes to us through Mary, so in the next world it is through her that deliverance and all good things are obtained. The Mother of God is queen over all whom her Son has redeemed. Thus the revelations of the saints tell us that she is truly the queen of Purgatory; whether she graciously sends the angels of her guard to represent her there; or deigns herself, the beautiful dawn of eternal day, to enter its gloomy precincts, and shed upon its flames the abundant dew of morning. Shall the snow of Libanus fail from the rock of the field? Or can the cold waters that gush out and run down, be taken away? (Jeremiah 18:14) We must understand, then, why we sing the Magnificat in the Office of the Dead: it is the loyal homage to Mary of the souls that are entering heaven, and the sweet hope of those still detained in the region of expiation.
The Canticle Magnificat (beginning of this volume) concluding with the Requiem æternam. etc.
After the repetition of the antiphon all kneel, and the priest begins the Lord’s Prayer.
The rest is said in silence as far as this conclusion, which is followed by the Versicles and Prayer that close the Vespers of the Dead.
℣. And lead us not into temptation,
℟. But deliver us from evil.
℣. From the gates of hell,
℟. Deliver their souls, O Lord.
℣. May they rest in peace.
℣. O Lord, hear my prayer.
℟. And let my cry come to thee.
℣. The Lord be with you.
℟. And with thy spirit.
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of thy servants, men and women, the remission of their sins; that by pious supplications they may obtain the pardon they have always desired. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, God, world without end.
℣. Eternal rest give to them, O Lord.
℟. And let perpetual light shine on them.
℣. May they rest in peace.
Let us offer Our Lady this touching supplication, which for a long time many churches addressed to her for the dead. It was composed in the fourteenth century, by John IV de Langoueznou, Abbot of Landevenec, inspired by his tender love for Mary.
To the sufferers in Purgatory, whom the burning flame is cleansing and sharp pains are tormenting, may thy compassion bring assistance, O Mary!
Fount accessible to all and washing away their sins, thou aidest all, despisest none: to the dead who languish in unceasing tortures stretch forth thy hand, O Mary!
How lovingly do the departed souls sigh towards thee, yearning to be delivered from their sufferings and to be admitted to the sight of thee in the enjoyment of eternal bliss, O Mary!
Hear their groans, and hasten, O Mother, to show the love of thy heart; obtain of Jesus that he would deign to heal them through his own wounds, O Mary!
Thou art the true hope of them that call upon thee: lo! united multitudes cry to thee for their brethren, that thou wouldst appease thy Son, and obtain for them the heavenly reward, O Mary!
In thy goodness, cause the tears thou seest us shed before the feet of the Judge, to speedily extinguish the flames of the avenging Are, that the dear souls may join the angelic choirs, O Mary!
And when the strict examination shall take place at God’s terrible judgment, oh! then implore thy Son the Judge that we may share the inheritance of the Saints, O Mary!
Truly this day is grand and beautiful. Earth, midway between heaven and purgatory, has united them together. The wonderful mystery of the communion of saints is revealed in all its fullness. The immense family of the sons of God is shown to be one in love, while distinct in its three states of beatitude, trial, and purifying expiation: the trial and expiation being but temporary, the beatitude eternal. It is the fitting completion of the teaching given us through the entire year; and every day within the octave we shall see the light increase.
Meanwhile, every soul is recollected, pondering over the dearest and noblest memories. On leaving the home of God, let our thoughts linger lovingly upon those who have the best claim to them. It is the feast of our beloved dead. Let us hear their suppliant voices in the plaintive tones that, from belfry to belfry throughout the Christian world, are ushering in this dark November night.
This evening or tomorrow they will expect us to visit them at the tombs where their mortal remains rest in peace. Let us pray for them; and let us also pray to them: we need never be afraid to speak to them of the interests that were dear to them before God. For God loves them; and, as His justice keeps them in an utter inability to help themselves, he makes amends to His goodness by hearing them all the more willingly on behalf of others.