Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1 Solemnity of All Saints, Year B

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints. This glorious feast has its roots in the early Church, when a martyr's death was commemmorated on the anniversary at the place of martyrdom. By the 4th century, the Church honored all martyrs, known and unknown, on a common feastday. In the early 600s, Pope Boniface IV dedicated the Roman Pantheon (Greek for "All the gods"), which had been a pagan temple, to the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. He also established the "Feast of All Martyrs," which by the mid-700s was extended to include all the saints in heaven.

In a homily, St. Bernard spoke movingly about our fellowship with the saints in glory:
Why should our praise and glorification, or even the celebration of this feast day mean anything to the saints? What do they care about earthly honors when their heavenly Father honors them by fulfilling the faithful promise of the Son? What does our commendation mean to them? The saints have no need of honor from us; neither does our devotion add the slightest thing to what is theirs. Clearly, if we venerate their memory, it serves us, not them. But I tell you, when I think of them, I feel myself inflamed by a tremendous yearning.
Calling the saints to mind inspires, or rather arouses in us, above all else, a longing to enjoy their company, so desirable in itself. We long to share in the citizenship of heaven, to dwell with the spirits of the blessed.
Come, brothers, let us at length spur ourselves on. We must rise again with Christ, we must seek the world which is above and set our mind on the things of heaven. Let us long for those who are longing for us, hasten to those who are waiting for us, and ask those who look for our coming to intercede for us. We should not only want to be with the saints, we should also hope to possess their happiness. While we desire to be in their company, we must also earnestly seek to share in their glory. Do not imagine that there is anything harmful in such an ambition as this; there is no danger in setting our hearts on such glory.
On this feast of Alls Saints, and every day, may this "great cloud of witnesses" in heavenly glory intercede for us!

The Forerunners of Christ with Saints & Martyrs (ca. 1423-24), Fra Angelico (National Gallery, London)


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