Skip to comments.The Roots of All Souls Day
Posted on 11/02/2007 1:49:23 PM PDT by NYer
November 1, 2007
Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin. ~2 Maccabees 12:46
November 2nd marks the Commemoration of All Souls; the day in which the earthly faithful are called to pray for the faithful departed in Purgatory. Often considered connected to Pagan or other ritualistic ceremonies, All Souls Day is, in fact, a practice with roots in the early Church where the names of the faithful departed would often be posted so that Church members could pray for each soul by name.
All Souls Day follows on the heels of All Saints Day, November 1st, which itself is traced back to origins as early as the fourth century when St. Basil of Caesarea invited neighboring dioceses to share relics of martyrs and to join in celebrating those whose lives had been given for the Church. Eventually Pope Urban IV instituted the practice of using All Saints Day as a way to honor all saints, known and unknown, thus acknowledging our limited knowledge of how each person has responded to God's call upon his or her life.
While All Saints Day commemorates the lives of saints, known and unknown, All Souls Day commemorates the souls of all the faithful departed. Requiem Masses, or Masses offered for the dead, are celebrated. Following in the Jewish belief that the just, after death, joined their ancestors, it became a common practice to offer prayers and oblations so that their "sleep" with the Father would be one of peace, thus "eternal rest." St. Paul, himself a Jew who would have understood this belief and practice, referred to this when he spoke of those who are asleep in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:18). Indeed, we read of him praying for the dead when he says of Onesiphorus, who has died, May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day (2 Timothy 18).
Requiem Masses follow a particular format. For instance, the Celebrant for Requiem Masses wears black vestments as this color sincerely reflects the mourning of the Church proper towards its faithful departed. If All Souls Day falls on a Sunday, it is moved to the next day. The joyful and intrinsic nature of Sunday as a day of resurrection should not be diminished by the mournful prayers offered for the faithful departed. Nor should the faithful departed be deprived of the sacrificial nature and benefit of the Requiem Masses. Thus a Sunday All Souls Day becomes a Monday All Souls Day.
At the heart of All Souls Day in the Catholic Church is the belief in Purgatory and the very real likelihood that most of us, even in God's grace, will leave this earth in such a condition that we are not yet ready to experience the beatific vision. Catholics follow the Council of Trent's proclamation which in part states, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar. The Council of Trent's declaration on the existence of Purgatory and the nature of the relationship between the faithful living and the faithful departed is, interestingly, a very clear and significant portion of the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. After the Torah portion of Yom Kippur services, Yizkor is said. Yizkor, which means "remember," reflects the Jewish belief that a soul is unable to perform mitzvahs and thus relies on the merit gained through the charitable acts of the living. God calls His people to perform good deeds for one another.
So while we do not believe, nor have we ever believed, that by our works we can attain salvation for ourselves or our brethren, we do believe in responding to the call upon us to pray for one another, both living and dead. We follow St. Paul's example and understand that it is with humility and honor that we join our sufferings with Christ.
Consider, also, the second prayer of the Jewish Amidah (morning prayers), or Gevurot, which extols God's great mercy on the dead, His ability to resurrect, and His mercy upon the dead as they sleep.
You are eternally mighty, my Master, the Resuscitator of the dead are You; abundantly able to save.
He sustains the living with kindness, resuscitates the dead with abundant mercy, supports the fallen, heals the sick, releases the confined, and maintains His faith to those asleep in the dust. Who is like You, O Master of mighty deeds, and who is comparable to You, O King Who causes death and restores life and makes salvation sprout!
And You are faithful to resuscitate the dead. Blessed are You, Hashem, Who resuscitates the dead.
Weaving ourselves back in time, thousands of years before Christ, we are able to find the roots of our practice of praying for the dead. While we understand and fully embrace the salvation that is only available to us through Jesus Christ, we also understand His call upon our lives to join our meager offerings to His magnificent Cross and ask that He consider these offerings valuable for the poor souls of Purgatory. And so, on this All Souls Day, let us remember our faithful departed and ask that God's mercy be upon them.
All Saints and All Souls days, in the Catholic cultures of the world, are celebrated with much symbolism and outward displays of spirituality. The cemeteries come alive with candle lights, flowers, pictures and decorations. These manifestations are there as evidence that the deceased is not abandoned and forgotten. Just as God remembers and shows mercy so do the connected living remember and go to the grave to settle matters of conscience and to put to rest the many mixed emotions that follow a funeral for a loved one. Its a beautiful and necessary tradition and Im happy to learn that it has strong roots in Judaism.
This tradition is a Christian way to let out our anxieties in a contemplative, festive and spiritual manner. It satisfies the human need and urge to connect with the deceased. Contrast that with the pagan Halloween which attempts to do just that but falls entirely flat and accomplishes nothing in directing the soul towards something that is tangible and lasting. It becomes a celebration of nervous silliness for the kids, the mischief makers and of course the merchants. How sad that the Judeo-Catholic tradition has not been able to penetrate this pagan-Protestant culture so that this day would be the actual day of celebration if only with candy.
Trent strikes again!
Reiterating the traditional Catholic doctrine against the innovations of Luther and his imitators.
Or just making it up out of whole cloth, whichever suits your fancy.
Given that Luther was rejecting it 40-50 years before, how do you suppose that's possible? Did Trent have a "wayback" machine to go back to 1500 and inject their invented ideas into Catholic Europe (while everyone was anesthetized, no doubt)?
The Council of Florence actually said more about purgatory than Trent did ... over 100 years earlier.
Glad you posted this.
As Campion noted "Luther was rejecting it 40-50 years before". And, speaking of Luther ....
In his personal translation of the New Testament into German, Martin Luther inserted the word allein ["alone"], though he knew it to be absent from the Greek text. When he was rebuked for having done so, he retorted, "If your Papist [i.e., Catholic] annoys you with the word [alone, as added to Rom. 3:28], tell him straightway: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so. Papist and ass are one and the same thing. Whoever will not have my translation, let him give it the go-by: the devil's thanks to him who censures it without my will and knowledge. Luther will have it so, and he is a doctor [i.e., teacher] above all the doctors in Popedom.'"
Now there's a thread that slipped by the Protestant freepers, unnoticed.
At our “mother parish” (I normally go to a mission church), we had a Requium Mass last night according to the Missal of Bl. John XXIII (missa cantata).
It was wonderful, and I think it was our pastor’s first TLM said in the presence of the faithful. About 300 people were present and the choir was very good.
Our pastor had black vestments (a black fiddleback), with biretta, maniple...the whole works!
Awesome! Thank you for sharing this event with us. It seems the Motu Proprio is beginning to ‘hatch’ :-)
NYer, thanks for the ping!
The author seems to be confused about Jewish and early Christian belief about what happens after death.
He cites 1 Corinthians 15:18:
1Co 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
Yet Paul is not talking about their hope WHILE they're asleep, but rather their hope at a future resurrection when Christ returns:
1Co 15:13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:
1Co 15:23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.
Indeed, we read of him praying for the dead when he says of Onesiphorus, who has died, May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that day (2 Timothy 18).
I'm a little puzzled at this statement. Nowhere does scripture say that Onesiphous is dead or that Paul is offering a prayer for the dead. Even if he were, again Paul is referring to a future day of resurrection which "that day" refers to.
As for Jewish belief, some Jews believed in a resurrection, some didn't. But Jews certainly don't believe in prayers for the dead in the same manner as Catholics do.
Bottom line is that All Souls Day is a traditional substitute for the holy days created and instituted by the Lord God. The article mentions one of these, the day of Atonement and Leviticus chapter 23 outlines these true, holy days.
New Advent, 2 Maccabees 12: 40—ff.
2 Maccabees (it is relegated to the Apocrypha in Protestant Bibles that have it at all):
12:40. And they found under the coats of the slain, some of
Of the donaries, etc... That is, of the votive offerings, which had been hung up in the temples of the idols, which they had taken away when they burnt the port of Jamnia, verse 9, contrary to the prohibition of the law, Deuteronomy 7:25.
12:41. Then they all blessed the just judgment of the Lord, who had discovered the things that were hidden.
[Omnes itaque benedixerunt iustum iudicium Domini qui occulta fecerit manifesta]
12:42. And so betaking themselves to prayers, they besought him, that the sin which had been committed might be forgotten. But the most valiant Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, forasmuch as they saw before their eyes what had happened, because of the sins of those that were slain.
[Atque ita ad preces conversi rogaverunt ut id quod factum erat delictum obliteraretur at vero fortissimus Iudas hortabatur populum conservare se sine peccato sub oculis videntes quae facta sint pro peccato eorum qui prostrati sunt]
12:43. And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection.
[Et facta conlatione duodecim milia dragmas argenti misit Hierosolymam offerri pro peccato sacrificium bene et religiose de resurrectione cogitans]
12:44. (For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead),
[Nisi enim eos qui ceciderant resurrecturos speraret superfluum videretur et vanum orare pro mortuis]
12:45. And because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them.
[Et quia considerabat quod hii qui cum pietate dormitionem acceperant optimam haberent repositam gratiam]
With godliness... Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death.
12:46. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.
[Sancta ergo et salubris cogitatio pro defunctis exorare ut a peccato solverentur]
It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead... Here is an evident and undeniable proof of the practice of praying for the dead under the old law, which was then strictly observed by the Jews, and consequently could not be introduced at that time by Judas, their chief and high priest, if it had not been always their custom.
I don’t think it’s going to be regularly scheduled...at least not yet. But I (and I suspect many others) are going to keep asking.
I’ve recently read that the first Nov. 1st celebrations for All Saints Day occurred in the middle of the 2nd century, prompted by the death of St. Polycarp, a student of St. John the Evangelist. That’s been stated in many blogs, but I couldn’t find an authoritative source.
New Advent Encyclopedia:
All Saints’ Day
[The vigil of this feast is popularly called “Hallowe’en” or “Halloween”.]
Solemnity celebrated on the first of November. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.
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. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. 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 honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).