Today's Solemnity of All Saints commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven, while tommorow, All Souls' Day, commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven.
Both feasts have taken on some of the characteristics of the Celtic winter feast of "Samhain", as reflected in the customs of Halloween.
The feast of All Souls is probably of Eastern origin. In the early centuries Christians celebrated the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the early fourth century, following the persecution of Diocletian, martyrs became so many that a separate day could not be assigned to each and the Church assigned a common day for all, celebrated in the East on the first Sunday after Pentecost: Homilies for the feast by St Ephrem the Syrian (373) and St John Chrysostom (407) are extant..
In the West the Byzantine emperor Phocas (602-610) handed over to Pope Boniface IV (608-615) the Pantheon, originally built as a temple to all the Roman gods. On May 13, Pope Boniface dedicated it as a church to St Mary and all the martyrs. But the anniversary was fixed for November 1 by Pope Gregory III (731-741) who consecrated a chapel to all the saints in St Peter's Basilica.
The 9th century Irish Martyrology of Aengus (828-833) has a feast for All Saints on November 1. The feast became known in England and Ireland as All Hallow's from which we get Halloween (the evening before All Hallows).
The scope of the feast includes all those officially recognised as saints, those whose cause for canonization has not yet been completed, like Kateri Tekakwitha, Cardinal Newman and Pope John XXIII.
Chapter V of the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium of Vatican II is entitled The Call to Holiness and insists that the "all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love" (LG 40).
* * *
Almighty ever-livingGod, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints, bestow on us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. Through our Lord.
* * * * * *
OTTAWA'S 40 DAYS FOR LIFE ENDS IN SONG, PRAYER, PROCESSION, VESPERS
Last evening, a large group gathered for song and prayer and a procession from the Morgenthaler abortion facility of Bank Street to St. Patrick's Basilica where the First Vespers of the Solemnity of All Saints was celebrated and a reception held in the Scavi (the parish hall).