Saturday, November 1, 2008

November 1-The Feast of all Saints

EPISTLE: Revelation 7:2-12.
GRADUAL: Ps. 33:10, 11.
GOSPEL: Matt. 5:1-12.

(1st READING: Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM: Ps. 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6.
2nd READING: 1 John 3:1-3.
GOSPEL: Matt. 5:1-12a.)

(Revelation 7:2-12)

In those days, behold, I, John, saw another Angel ascending from the rising of the sun, having the seal of the living God; and he cried with a great voice to the four Angels, to whom it was given to hurt the earth and the sea, saying, "Do not hurt the Earth nor the sea nor the trees until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads."

And I heard the number of those who were sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

Of the tribe of Judah twelve thousand sealed;
Of the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Gad twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Asher twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand sealed
Of the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Levi twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand sealed,
Of the tribe of Benjamin twelve thousand sealed.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could count, from every nation, and tribes, and peoples, and tongues, standing before the Throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes and with palm branches in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation to our God who sits on the Throne, and to the Lamb!" And all the angels were standing around the Throne and the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell before the Throne on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "Amen; Blessing and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and strength be to our God to the ages of ages, Amen!"


The feast of all Saints arose out of the old Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their deaths (itself the origin of the idea of celebrating the feast days of saints). When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local churches instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.

Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from local church to local church, and many times a specific church honored local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal among the Church as a whole. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St. Ephrem the Syrian (d. 373 AD). St. John Chrysostom (d. 407 AD) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the eastern Churches the feast is still celebrated under the name of Αγίων Πάντων (Agiōn Pantōn, "All Saints").

The western Church may have also originally celebrated the feast on this date; however, in May 13, 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, and the feast of the Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, coincided with the culmination of three days of Lemuria, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.

The feast, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter's Basilica 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 feast being moved to November 1.

This usually fell within a few weeks of the Celtic 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 originally celebrate the feast on this November 1 date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring; the Félire Óengusso (The martyrology [a catalogue or list of martyrs or saints] of Aengus the Culdee) and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches in Ireland celebrated the feast on the 20th of 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 November 1. The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471—1484).

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