Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Octave of All Saints 2017

From the Roman Breviary of 1529, the conclusion of the sermon for the feast of All Saints.

We believe that this day’s festivity is also made renowned by the priests, doctors, and confessors of Christ, who spiritually nourish the hearts of the faithful, like heavenly waters, so that they may be able to bring forth in abundance the incorruptible fruit of good works. They have taken care not only to give back the talents entrusted to them, but also to increase them with interest, … ; for the good which they learned and understood through the grace of the Holy Spirit, they strove to impart not only to themselves, but to the minds of those subject to them. … Celebrating the sacred and holy mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ upon the altar, in the depths of their heart they cease not to offer a living sacrifice, and pleasing to God, that is, themselves, without blemish or admixture of any evil deed. And although they did not feel the sword of the persecutors, yet through the merit of their lives, they are worthy of God and not deprived of martyrdom. For martyrdom is accomplished not only by the shedding of blood, but also by abstaining from sins, and the practice of God’s commandments. … Very many have shone forth with signs and wonders, restoring sight to the blind, strengthening the steps of the lame, giving hearing to the deaf, conquering demons, and raising the dead.
All Saints in Glory, by Giovanni da San Giovanni, 1630, in the apse of the church of the Four Crowned Martyrs in Rome.
Therefore, dearest brethren, with the full intention of our minds let us ask for the protection of the mighty intercessors of whom we have spoken, so that through the temporal feast which we keep, by their merits interceding, we may be able to come to eternal joy. All things pass away that are celebrated in time. Take care, all that take part in these solemnities, lest you be cut off from the eternal solemnity. For what profiteth it to take part in the feasts of men, if it befall you to miss the feasts of the Angels? (The words from “All things pass away...” to the end are added from a homily of Saint Gregory of Great for the Octave Day of Easter.)

From the Breviary of St. Pius V, 1568, the end of the treatise on mortality by St. Cyprian of Carthage, bishop and martyr, read on the Octave Day of All Saints.

We must consider, most beloved brethren, and continually reflect upon the fact that we have renounced the world, and in the meanwhile live here as guests and pilgrims. Let us embrace the day which assigns each of us to his own home, which restores us to paradise and the heavenly kingdom, delivered hence and freed from the snares of the world. What man that has been placed in foreign lands would not hasten to return to his own country? What man that is hastening to sail back to his friends desireth not the more eagerly a prosperous wind, that he might the sooner be able to embrace those dear to him?
We regard paradise as our country, already we begin to deem the patriarchs as our parents: why do we not hasten and run, that we may see our country, that we may greet our parents? There a great number of our dear ones awaits us, and a dense crowd of parents, brothers, children, longs for us, already assured of their own immortality, and still solicitous for our salvation. To attain to their sight and their embrace, what gladness both for them and for us in common! What delight there is in the heavenly kingdom, without fear of death; and how lofty and perpetual the happiness with eternity of living!

There the glorious choir of the apostles, there the host of the prophets rejoicing, there the innumerable multitude of the martyrs, crowned for the victory of their struggle and passion; there the triumphant virgins, who subdued the desire of the flesh and of the body by the strength of their continency. There are the merciful rewarded, who by feeding and helping the poor have done the works of justice, they who, in keeping precepts of the Lord, have transformed their earthly patrimonies into the heavenly treasures. To these, beloved brethren, let us hasten with eager desire; let us long quickly to be with them, that quickly we may come to Christ.

November 8th is also the feast of the Four Crowned Martyrs, the titular Saints of a very ancient but much-rebuilt church on the Caelian Hill in Rome. Every year on the feast, the altar is covered with a very beautiful frontal, and silver reliquary busts of the martyrs are displayed in the sanctuary.

Among the many inscriptions preserved in the church, this one records that Pope Leo IV (847-55) placed under the church’s altar the relics of the Four Crowned Martyrs, and a great many others; in addition to those listed by name here, he placed “many other bodies of Saints whose names are known to God.”

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