Faithful examples to follow

By | October 28, 2009

The strains of the opening hymn in honor of the saints, a sung text of the beatitudes at Communion and the prayers of the day leave no doubt in our mind that when we gather for worship today (and on any given Sunday), we are not simply an isolated parish. Instead, we are part of that “great cloud of witnesses” described in the letter to the Hebrews, who gather to worship before the throne of God, men and women “from every nation, race, people and tongue.”

The Solemnity of All Saints in the western or Latin Catholic Church is a major feast day on which we are obliged to participate in Mass. It falls on Nov. 1 and is followed by the commemoration of the Faithful Departed on Nov. 2. In the Eastern Catholic Church, the solemnity of All Saints is celebrated on the Sunday after Pentecost.

We trace the origins of the feast in honor of all saints to the seventh century when Pope Boniface dedicated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs. In the eighth century, on Nov. 1, Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in honor of the holy apostles and all the saints —  “all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world.”

While there are thousands of canonized saints, many of whom have individual feast days on which they are honored, there are innumerable saints who have not been officially recognized by the church, but who dwell in glory with God. And we have probably known a number of them.

The liturgical color for the day is white, reflecting the description from the Book of Revelation — “those who survived the great trial, having washed their robes, making them white in the Blood of the Lamb.” In the Gospel account, Jesus gave us a description of true holiness. We’ve heard the Beatitudes so often — blessed are the poor in spirit, the merciful, the meek, the clean of heart, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for justice. Today we recall men and women who put into practice Jesus’ invitation to live the values of the Kingdom.

There are several reminders of the importance of today’s feast during the liturgy. We will sing the Gloria and recite either the Nicene Creed or the Apostles Creed. During the special preface (immediately before we sing the Holy, Holy, Holy) the priest prays in gratitude for the saints, our brothers and sisters who surround God’s throne and sing his praises forever. “Their glory fills us with joy and their communion with us in (God’s) church gives us inspiration and strength.” The liturgy closes with a solemn blessing asking the intercession of the saints and praying that we might come to share the same joy in our Father’s house.

Today we honor the saints not simply by celebrating the liturgy, but also by asking their intercession, and by following their example of faithful service to God.

Sr. Rehrauer is the director of Evangelization and Worship for the Diocese of Green Bay

 

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