Friday, November 02, 2007

All the Company of Heaven

Today (November 2) is All Souls Day (for those of you who prefer parochial designations, that would be "The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed"), and I note with some disappointment that the LCMS has chosen not to include this Feast in LSB, the new hymnal, reverting to the unfortunate omission in TLH which was for a time finally corrected, when LW restored it to its place. But alas now it's gone again.

Evidently the committee made the mistake which is so often made, of thinking that All Saints Day is the day to remember all the faithful departed. But historically All Saints Day is for commemorating those saints of old who made the good confession even unto death, especially those who do not have particular days for their commemoration. That is why we follow the rubric of employing red (the color of blood), not white, for All Saints.

That's the first thing wrong with not observing All Souls Day: generally it means you forgot about All Saints in the historic sense.

The second thing wrong with it is that when we fail to distinguish between the heroic "extraordinary" saints of the Church's history and the more "ordinary" faithful departed we do justice to neither. All Souls Day is the day for remembering all the "ordinary" among the faithful departed: your departed relatives and friends, as well as simple, humble Christians who died in the faith without having done anything that really stands out. But their works (works of faith all) stand out to God, and He vindicates their ordinary lives with crowns of glory, and they shall rise to everlasting life.

They are even now among "all the company of heaven," yes, as it were right beside, and counted together with the more heroic of the saints. They all rejoice with us at Mass, even when there are only a few of us observing the day in any particular location. In fact, the altar is always a very crowded place.

Both All Saints and All Souls are and remain Feasts of the First Class, notwithstanding LSB's dropping of the second altogether. Next year, incidentally, All Souls falls on a Sunday. Mark your calendars: it takes precedence over that Second Class Sunday and is observed instead. But All Saints is still the day before.


Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Fr. Eckardt, i agree with you that it is unfortunate that the LSB omitted All Souls Day. In some old German congregations, the Last Sunday after Trinity is often observed as the commemoration of the congregation's own faithful departed (Totenfest).

I disagree, however, with the choice of red as the color for the feast. The historic Western use is to use white. TLH also assigned white to this day. Red, however, is the color assigned by the SBH.

As for All Souls day, I agree that it is a first class feast; but I follow the guide of the historic rite which holds that All Souls is never celebrated on Sunday. Most likely, this is because the historic rite assigns black as the color for this celebration. Again, I tend to agree with this choice. This is also the color that is most often assigned to the Totenfest observance.

Your advice and instruction are always welcome.

Father Eckardt said...

Really. Thanks for the tip. is this the only first class feast not celebrated on a Sunday?

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

In answer to your question, I do believe that All Souls is the only first class feast that is not celebrated on a Sunday.

Father Eckardt said...

Regarding red for All Saints, I do not recall the source for this; I believe it may have been an old published Altar Guild manual. I remember thinking at the time that the rule made perfect sense, in view of the origination of All Saints, namely as a day on which to commemorate those many who do not have a day of their own. Since virtually every one of the Feasts we do observe is for a martyred saint (I can think of St. Mary Magdalene and St. John as exceptions), it is reasonable to assign red to the day. I did not have access to a definitive authority on this, so I went with the most sensible.

Now there are some who like to follow calendars who assign dates ad infinitum to various saints; the result is a ridiculously crowded calendar. So I prefer for the most part to observe Biblical saints, with a few exceptions to this rule (e.g. St. Laurence, St. Nicholas, St. Lucia).

I am unaware of any canons requiring certain colors for lesser saints' days.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

Fr. Eckardt, as for "canons requiring certain colors for lesser saints' days," you need only to follow the pattern of red for martyrs and white for those not martyrs. Therefore, white would be used for confessors, doctors, abbots, bishops, priests, deacons, virgins, holy women, etc., unless they are also martyrs.

Now, among "those who like to follow calendars who assign dates ad infinitum to various saints"; I would like to point out that Loehe's calendar of 1868 listed at least one saint for every day of the year. Some of these commemorations are even too obscure for me to inscribed in my calendar.

Liturgical calendars are created in layers. There are those feasts that are celebrated universally (the universal calendar). Feast celebrated only in a specific place (country, province, diocese, etc.) which establish a local calendar. Religious orders or congregations list their unique observances in a particular calendar. Therefore, it is not unusual to find multi-layered calendars with "assign(ed) dates ad infinitum."

The feasts of the saints are of the first, second or third class. When more than one feast concurs with another, the feast of higher rank is usually celebrated. The other(s) may be commemorated or not.

Having gone beyond the point of too much information, I respectfully take my leave.

Father Eckardt said...

I am aware of calendars such as Loehe's, and I am also aware of calendars which contain several commemorations per day, including, among other things, octaves for Feasts which ought not have octaves. Methinks that those who have such calendars need not observe All Saints, because they must have covered all the bases already.

What I meant about a canon covering colors was not that which you mentioned, but whether for those who make such observances (say in a cathedral or a cloister) the paraments are indeed changed every single day of the year. I daresay that would make quite a checkerboard calendar, most of which would be red and white.

I also cannot recall seeing appointed readings for all these lesser saints' days. For many there is a legenda, perhaps, I don't recall about readings.

Dcn. Muehlenbruch said...

The appointed readings for all these lesser saints' days are in the form of "commons". The Anglican Missal, for example, contains several dozen common Masses. There is one common for the vigils of Apostles, another for martyrs, one for a martyr bishop, one for a martyr not a bishop, etc.
These commons also include variations to be observed during Lent or during Easter. In most cases, the collect is the only thing that it proper to the saint being commemorated.

To the best om knowledge, there is no specific canon requiring all of the saints inscribed into the calendar to be celebrated during the year. Local custom, popular piety, local significance, etc., usually determine which feasts are celebrated and which are omitted.

In general, those saints' days which are of the second class are almost always celebrated. The majority of the saints in the calendar are of the third class, and these always give way to feasts of higher rank.

The historic rite contains relatively few feasts that are of required, universal obligation.

Father Eckardt said...

That is as I suspected, having consulted the Anglican Breviary as well.