News from the Vicarage - November 2017
- Published on Wednesday, 01 November 2017 00:00
All Saints, or All Hallows, is the feast of all the redeemed, known and unknown, who are now in heaven. When the English Reformation took place, the number of saints in the calendar was drastically reduced, with the result that All Saints' Day stood out with a prominence that it had never had before.
This feast day first began in the East, perhaps as early as the 5th century, as commemorating 'the martyrs of the whole world'. A Northern English 9th century calendar named All Hallows as a principal feast, and such it has remained. Down the centuries devotional writers have seen in it the fulfilment of Pentecost and indeed of Christ's redemptive sacrifice and resurrection.
The saints do not belong to any religious tradition, and their lives and witness to Christ can be appreciated by all Christians.
We celebrate All Saints' Day with a Eucharist at 7pm on Wednesday 1st November.
The early Church was slow to dedicate a liturgical day to offering prayers and masses to commemorate the faithful departed. But in time prayers were offered on behalf of dead monks, that they might attain 'the Beatific Vision' through purification, which the Church later described as Purgatory. Odilo, the powerful abbot of Cluny, (d 1049) decreed that All Souls' Day should follow the feast of All Saints' Day.
At least four ancient English dedications are known, the most famous of which are All Souls College, Oxford and the church in Langham Place in London.
In bygone centuries All Souls' Day was certainly uncomfortable for anyone who had wronged a person who had then died. For it was believed that souls in purgatory could appear on earth on this day, in the form of ghosts, witches or toads, to haunt anyone who had wronged them in life.
On a more cheerful note, it was also believed that you could help the dead on this day by almsgiving in cash or in kind. Some of these beliefs seem to have been caught up in the popular customs of Halloween.
This year we are keeping All Souls' Tide on Sunday 5th November with a special service to remember the faithful departed at 4pm. The names of those who we wish to remember and those who have died recently will be read out and a candle may be light. Do come and support this Service. Also this day we remember one Guy Fawkes - an early terrorist.
Back in 1605 Guy Fawkes managed to stow a good few barrels of gunpowder under the House of Lords without anybody noticing. He was part of a Roman Catholic plot to murder James I of England and his parliament at the state opening. Fortunately, Guy Fawkes was found - and stopped - in time.
My Prayers and best wishes,
Fr. Philip Edge - Vicar