Thursday, November 01, 2007

All Saints Day


All Saints Day, All Hallows or Hallowmas is a Christian feast day celebrated on November 1, or the first Sunday after Pentecost. It a day meant to honor all of the saints, both known and unknown. Because Halloween preceded this feast day, that day actually took it's name from this feast day and thus became "The Eve of All Hallows', and eventually 'Hallowe'en'.

In the Christian West, All Saints Day honors those who have attained beatific vision in heaven, while November 2, All Soul's Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not been so purified and entered heaven. In the tradition of using holy names taken from the Greek, early names such as All Hallowmas referred to hallowed or saintly, and mas, to the early Christian mass.

The Church has always honored those early witnesses to the Christian faith who have died for their beliefs. Many of those especially holy people whose names and stories were known, the Church later canonized. The Church's calendar contains many saint's days, which Catholics observe at Mass -- some with special festivities.

And it is important to remember, no matter what your beliefs, that the early Christian Church became the Catholic Church, and all other derivations, then sprang from various other beliefs. That is why churchs who are considered 'Protestant'...those who protested against any of the Catholic Church beliefs, either kept some of the early beliefs, such as saint days and masses or created their own holy or holi-days.

This feast that we know as All Saints Day originated as a feast of All Martyrs (the word martyrs comes from a Greek word that means to witness). At first it was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It came to be observed on May 13 when Pope St. Boniface IV (608-615) restored and rebuilt for use as a Christian church an ancient Roman temple which pagan Rome had dedicated to "all gods", the Pantheon. The pope re-buried the bones of many martyrs there, and dedicated this Church as a holy place to honor all Holy Martyrs in 610. Later, this was changed to Nov. 1, when Pope Gregory III) consecrated a new chapel in the basilica of St. Peter to all saints.

The vigil of this important feast, All Saints Eve, Hallowe'en, was apparently observed as early as the feast itself. Ever since then -- for more than a millennium -- the entire Church has celebrated the feast of All Saints on November 1st, and, of course, Hallowe'en on October 31.

Shown above:
"Christ Glorified in the Court of Heaven"
a depiction of all saints with the Christ, by
Fra Angelico - 1428-30, Tempera on wood - National Gallery, London

In honor of the day:
"The glorious company of the apostles praise Thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise Thee.
The white-robed army of martyrs praise Thee.
All Thy saints and elect with one voice do acknowledge Thee,
O Blessed Trinity, one God!"
-- Feast of All Saints (November 1), Antiphon at Lauds. from the Te Deum

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.