Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween and the feast of All Saints

October 31 is All Hallow's Eve, aka Halloween, and this is a date we should celebrate, and do, including liturgically with I Vespers of All Saints.

Yet the non-liturgical traditions are important too, serving as a reminder that there is an invisible dimension to the world that we need to be conscious of including the saints and angels to aid us; demons to beware of; and restless souls in purgatory who need our prayers.

The readings for the feast at Matins are:

Nocturn I: Revelation 4:2-7; 4:8, 5:1-14
Nocturn II: Homily of St Bede on the feast
Nocturn II: St Augustine, Homily on the Sermon on the Mount, Book 1, ch 1;
Gospel: Matthew 5:1-12

Here is the Homily of St Bede on the feast (from Divinum Officium, but with divisions of the text into four readings as used in the Benedictine Breviary):

Dearly beloved brethren: This day we keep, with one great cry of joy, a Feast in memory of all God's holy children; His children, whose presence is a gladness to heaven; His children, whose prayers are a blessing to earth; His children, whose victories are the crown of the Holy Church; His chosen, whose testifying is the more glorious in honour, as the agony in which it was given was the sterner in intensity, for as the dreader grew the battle, so the grander grew the fighters, and the triumph of martyrdom waxed the more incisive by the multiplicity of suffering, and the heavier the torment the heavier the prize. 

And it is our Mother, the Catholic Church, spread far and wide throughout all this planet, it is she that hath learnt, in Christ Jesus her Head, not to fear shame, nor cross, nor death, but hath waxed lealer and lealer, and, not by fighting, but by enduring, hath breathed into all that noble band who have come up to the bitter starting-post the hope of conquest and glory which hath warmed them manfully to accept the race.

If a verity thou art blessed, O my Mother the Church! The blaze of God's mercy beateth full upon thee; thine adornment is the glorious blood of victorious Martyrs, and thy raiment the virgin whiteness of untarnished orthodoxy. thy garlands lack neither roses nor lilies. And now, dearly beloved brethren, let each one of us strive to gain the goodly crown of one sort or the other, either the glistening whiteness of purity, or the red dye of suffering. In the army in heaven peace and war have both chaplets of their own, to crown Christ's soldiers withal.

Moreover, to this also hath the unutterable and boundless goodness of God seen, that He spreadeth not the time of working and wrestling, neither maketh it long, nor everlasting, and, as it were, but for a moment, so that in this short and scanty life there is wrestling and working, but the crown and the prize is in a life which is eternal. So the work is soon over, but the wage is paid for ever. And when the night of this world is over, the Saints are to see the clearness of the essential light, and to receive a blessedness outweighing the pangs of any torment, as testifieth the Apostle Paul, where he saith: The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

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