Feast of All Saints

“The Holy Angels and the Saints of God are our best, kindest and truest friends, so often helping us in circumstances in which no one on this earth can. As these holy ones who bless us with benefits are invisible, while we, on account of our corporality, wish to have them before our eyes, we have images of them; and looking upon these images we call upon these images, we call upon them in our prayers, knowing that they have great boldness before God, to help us.” – St. John of Kronstadt

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints, is a solemnity celebrated by the Latin Rite of the Church on November 1st, followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2nd, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church. The origin of All Saints’ Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places; however, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of the Feast of the Lemures (May 13), in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”.

On May 13, 609 Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary; the feast of the Dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St. Peter’s 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 date moved to November 1st and the May 13th feast suppressed.

The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Tradition commemorate all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints’ Sunday (Greek: Αγίων Πάντων). In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honored by a special day. As early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter.

O Almighty God, who knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord: Grant us grace so to follow your blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that, through their intercession, we may come to those ineffable joys which you have prepared for those who unfeignedly love you; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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