Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The Feast of All Saints 2023

From the Breviary according to the use of the Roman Curia, 1529, the beginning of the sermon for the seventh day in the Octave of All Saints.

Today, most beloved, we celebrate with one rejoicing the feast of All Saints, in whose company heaven exsulteth, by whose protection the earth is made glad, by whose triumphs the Holy Church is crowned, whose confession is all the more glorious in honor, as it was the mightier in their suffering. For as the striving increaseth, so increaseth also the glory of those that strive, and the triumph of martyrdom is adorned by many different sorts of suffering. Come then, brethren, let us now seize upon the way unto life, which bringeth us unto the heavenly city, where we are enrolled and proclaimed as citizens, the way of that happiness whose feast we celebrate today under the name of the dedication of Round St Mary’s.

The altar of the Pantheon decorated for the feast day in 2016. 
“Sancta Maria Rotunda - Round St Mary’s” was the usual medieval name of the Pantheon as a church, dedicated to the Virgin Mary and All Martyrs by Pope Boniface IV (608-15) in 609 A.D. The common tradition, explicitly stated in the other All Saints sermons in the 1529 Breviary, was that the origin of the feast of All Saints lay in this act of dedication, by which the temple of all the gods was cleansed from the worship of demons and given to the honor of all the Saints. It must be stated as a matter of history that there is no evidence to prove that the Pantheon was actually a temple.
In the Middle Ages, the sermon read at Matins on the feast of All Saints was the same in almost every Use of the Roman Rite, called from its first words “Legimus in ecclesiasticis historiis”; the author is unknown, although it was frequently attributed to St Rabanus Maurus. The first lesson refers to the institution of the feast of All Saints, and the dedication of the Pantheon as a church. (In 2017, I wrote an article explaining that this is almost certainly not the case, and that the feast was instituted as a response to the iconoclast heresy of the 8th century.) The second lesson is about God, while the six lessons that follow descend through the hierarchy of the Saints: the Virgin Mary, the Angels, the Patriarchs and Prophets, the Apostles, the Martyrs, and the various types of Confessors. The holy Virgins and other female Saints are mentioned in the same lesson as the Virgin Mary, the model of consecrated life; the ninth lesson is taken from a homily of St. Augustine on the Sermon on the Mount, the beginning of which is the Gospel of the feast.

When All Saints was granted an octave by Pope Sixtus IV in the early 1480s, each day of the octave was assigned a different sermon with the same structure, covering the first eight of the nine lessons at Matins. Each year, we commemorate All Saints and its octave with one of these lessons, taking them this year from from the sermon assigned to be read on November 7th.

Just a few minutes’ walk away, the church of the FSSP, Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, celebrates the feast of All Saints every year by decorated the high altar with many of its relics. The large busts in the upper tier are of Ss Gregory the Great, Augustine, Pius V and Charles Borromeo, made for the canonization of the last of the, which was celebrated on All Saints’ day in 1610. On the second tier, relics of the Apostles Peter, Paul, Matthew and John are enclosed in bases which support bronze statues of them (which are unbelievably heavy), with a variety of small relics between them. The two small silver busts are of Saints from the Roman catacombs. (Our thanks to Mr John Ryan Debil for these pictures.)  
On the altar of the left transept, which is dedicated to St Matthew, a variety of other relics, with St Philip Neri, the founder of the church’s confraternity, front and center.

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