Thursday, 1 November 2012

Texts for All Saints

On the basis that the texts of the Liturgy can offer a teaching on the nature of a feast day being celebrated, it is quite interesting to look at the texts that I encountered for todays Solemnity of All Saints.

The first text to catch my attention was the office hymn for Morning Prayer, or perhaps more strictly, Laudes matutinas, since I use the Latin breviary for the hymn rather than the English. The hymn is Iesu, salvator saeculi and a translation can be found by scrolling down at this page. I was struck by the way in which the hymn presents categories of saints in order interceding for us: the Mother of God (v.1) , the angels, patriarchs and prophets (v.2), the Baptist (v.3), martyrs, confessors and virgins (v.4) and monks (v.5). The hymn for Vespers, Christe, redemptor omnium (translation on the same page as before) has a similar ordering, which includes the apostles. The ordering represents a ranking in order of closeness of participation in the work of Christ, and also in the historical order of salvation history.

The other text that I encountered was the introduction to the Mass for today contained in Magnificat. This was extracted from the words of Pope Benedict XVI:
To become saints means to fulfil completely what we already are, raised to the dignity of God's adopted children in Christ Jesus ...The saints bring to light in a creative fashion quite new human potentialities .... The saints are themselves the living spaces into which one can turn ... There is no isolation in heaven. It is the open society of the saints and, consequently, also teh fulfilment of all human togetherness ... One might say that the saints are, so to speak, new Christian constellations, in which the richness of God's goodness is reflected. Their light, coming from God, enables us to know better the interior richness of God's great light .....Nothing can bring us into close contact with the beauty of Christ himself other than the world of beauty created by faith and light that shines out from the faces of the saints, through whom his own light becomes visible.
And the final text was the Preface from the Mass for today:
For today by your gift we celebrate the festival of your city, the heavenly Jerusalem, our mother, where the great array of our brothers and sisters already gives you eternal praise.

It is true that this feast day celebrates the future glory for which we on earth live in hope, and so has an aspect of reference to ourselves. But these texts point us away from ourselves and towards heaven, towards the "great array" of the angels and saints who there live in worship of the glory of God

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