11 - 15 minutes readNovember 3 – Third Day Within the Octave of All Saints ~ Dom Prosper Gueranger

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November 3 – Third Day Within the Octave of All Saints

Had we Angels’ eyes, we should see the earth as a vast field sown with seed for the resurrection. The death of Abel opened the first furrow, and ever since, the sowing has gone on unceasingly the wide world over. This land of labor and of suffering, what treasures it already holds laid up in its bosom! And what a harvest for heaven, when the Sun of Justice, suddenly darting forth his rays, shall cause to spring up as suddenly from the soil the elect ears ripe for glory! No wonder that the Church herself blesses and superintends the laying of the precious grain in the earth.

But the Church is not content to be always sowing. sometimes, as though impatient of delay, she raises from the ground the chosen seed she had sown therein. Her infallible discernment preserves her from error; and, disengaging from the soil the immortal germ, she forestalls the glory of the future. She encloses the treasure in gold or precious stuffs, carries it in triumph, invites the multitudes to come and reverence it; or she raises new temples to the name of the blessed one, and assigns him the highest honor of reposing under the Altar, whereon she offers to God the tremendous Sacrifice.

“Let your charity understand,” explains St. Augustine: “it is not to Stephen we raise an altar in this place; but of Stephen’s relics we make an altar to God. God loves these altars; and if you ask the reason: Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. In obedience to God the invisible soul has quitted its visible dwelling. But God preserves this dwelling; he is glorified by the honor we pay to this lifeless flesh; and, clothing it with the might of his divinity, he gives it the power of working miracles.” Hence the origin of pilgrimages to the shrines of the Saints.

“Christian people,” says St. Gregory of Nyssa, “wherefore are you assembled here? A tomb has no attractions; nay, the sight of its contents inspires horror. Yet, see what eagerness to approach this sepulcher! So great an object of desire is it, that a little of the dust from around it is esteemed a gift of great price. As to beholding the remains it conceals, that is a rare favor, and an enviable one, as those can testify who enjoy the privilege: they embrace the holy body as though it were yet alive, they press their lips and their eyes upon it, shedding tears of love and devotion. What emperor ever received such an honor?”

“Emperors!” rejoins St. John Chrysostom; “as the porters at their gates, such have they become with regard to poor fishers. The son of the great Constantine deemed he could not pay a higher honor to his father, than to procure him a place of sepulcher in the porch of the fisherman of Galilee.” And again, concluding his commentary on St. Paul’s admirable Epistle to the Romans, the golden-mouthed Doctor exclaims: “And now, who will grant me to prostrate myself at Paul’s sepulcher, to contemplate the ashes of that body which, suffering for us, filled up what was wanting of the sufferings of Christ? The dust of that mouth, which spoke boldly before kings, and, showing what Paul was, revealed the Lord of Paul? The dust of that heart, truly the heart of the world, more lofty than the heavens, more vast than the universe, as much as the heart of Christ as of Paul, and wherein might be read the book of grace, graven by the Holy Spirit? Oh! that I might see the remains of the hands, which wrote those Epistles; of the eyes, which were struck with blindness and recovered their sight for our salvation; of the feet which traversed the whole earth! Yes; I would fain contemplate the tomb where repose these instruments of justice and of light, these members of Christ, this temple of the Holy Ghost. O venerable body, which, together with that of Peter, protects Rome more securely than all ramparts!”

In spite of such teachings as these, the heretics of the sixteenth century profaned the tombs of the Saints, under pretext of bringing us back to the doctrine of our forefathers. In contradiction to these strange reformers, the Council of Trent expressed the unanimous testimony of Tradition in the following definition, which sets forth the theological reasons of the honor paid by the Church to the relics of Saints:

“Veneration ought to be shown by the faithful to the bodies of the Martyrs and other Saints, who live with Jesus Christ. For they were his living members and the temples of the Holy Ghost; he will raise them up again to eternal life and glory; and through them God grants many blessings to mankind. Therefore, those who say that the relics of the Saints are not worthy of veneration, that it is useless for the faithful to honor them, that it is vain to visit the memorials or monuments of the Saints in order to obtain their aid, are absolutely to be condemned; and, as they have already been long ago condemned, the Church now condemns them once more.”

Considering the unequal distribution of relics throughout the world, Rome has not fixed one universal feast for the essentially local cultus of these precious remains. She leaves the particular churches free to consult their own convenience, reserving it to herself to bless and sanction the choice of each.

Mass of the Holy Relics.—As the feast of the holy Relics is in many places celebrated on the Sunday within the Octave of All Saints’, we here give the Mass and Vespers most commonly used. The liturgical formulæ are, however, not less variable than the date of the feast.

The Introit, borrowed from the thirty-third Psalm, tells us of God’s solicitude for his own, in death as in life. Whatever may become of the just, under trial and persecution, their bones shall be gathered together again on the last day, at the voice of the Son of Man.

Multæ tribulationes justorum, et de his omnibus liberavit eos Dominus: Dominus custodit omnia ossa eorum: unum ex his non conteretur. Many were the afflictions of the just, and out of all these the Lord delivered them: the Lord keepeth all their bones, not one of them shall be broken.
Ps. Benedicam Dominum in omni tempore: semper laus ejus in ore meo. Gloria Patri. Multæ. Ps. I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall be ever in my mouth. Glory be to the Father. Many were.

The miracles wrought by these dry bones prove, says St. Augustine, that they are not really dead. Let our faith in the future resurrection be thereby increased; and let us pray with the Church in her Collect, that we too, at the appointed time, may partake in the glory of which their wonder-working power is the pledge.

Auge in nobis, Domine, resurrectionis fidem, qui in Sanctorum tuorum reliquiis mirabilia operaris: et fac nos immortalis gloriæ participes, cujus in eorum cineribus pignora veneramur. Per Dominum. Increase within us, O Lord, the faith of the resurrection, thou who workest wonders in the relics of thy Saints: and make us partakers of immortal glory, of which we venerate the pledges in their ashes. Through.

Then are commemorated the occurring Sunday and the Octave of All Saints, by their respective Collects.

Lectio libri Sepientiæ. Lesson from the Book of Wisdom.
Eccli. xliv. Eccli. xliv.
Hi viri misericordiæ sunt, quorum pietates non defuerunt. Cum semine eorum permanent bona: hæreditas sancta nepotes eorum, et in testamentis stetit semen eorum: et filii eorum propter illos usque in æternum manent: semen eorum et gloria eorum non derelinquetur. Corpora ipsorum in pace sepulta sunt, et nomen eorum vivit in generationem et generationem. Sapientiam ipsorum narrent populi, et laudem eorum nuntiet ecclesia. These were men of mercy, whose godly deeds have not failed: Good things continue with their seed, Their posterity are a holy inheritance, and their seed hath stood in the covenants. And their children for their sakes remain for ever: their seed and their glory shall not be forsaken. Their bodies are buried in peace, and their name liveth unto generation and generation. Let the people shew forth their wisdom, and the church declare their praise.

Our ancestors looked upon holy relics as their greatest riches, the treasure by excellence of their cities. Dew of heaven and fatness of the earth, the blessings of this world and of the next, seemed to distil from the bodies of the Saints. Their presence was a check to hostile armies, as well as to the legions of hell; it guarded morals, fostered faith, and encouraged prayer in the heart of cities, to which they attracted as great crowds as now flock to our centers of pleasure. And with what vigilance was cherished the blessed deposit, the loss whereof would have been considered the greatest of public calamities!

“I have here, my brethren,” says Cardinal Pie, “to unfold to you a marvelous design of the God whom Scripture calls wonderful in his Saints. The Lord Jesus, who said to his disciples: Go ye and teach, euntes ergo docete, frequently takes pleasure in sending them forth again after their death; and he makes use of their apostolate from beyond the tomb, to carry the blessings of greace to other nations, besides those whom they evangelized in life. I have appointed you, he said, that you should go and should bring forth fruit: Posui vos ut eatis et fructum afferatis. In obedience to this command, the Saints, even after having reached the blessed term of their mortal pilgrimage, consent to become wayfarers once more. Had I leisure to recount to you all the posthumous wanderings of our illustrious pontiffs and thaumaturgi, for instance the repeated journeys of our own Hilary and Martin during more than ten centuries, I should, though captivating your attention by narratives full of interest, run the risk of wearying you by the length of my discourse.”

The Gradual and its Verse, taken from the Psalms, extol the future glory feebly imaged by that which here surrounds the blessed on their couches of honor.

Exsultabunt Sancti in gloria: lætabuntur in cubilibus suis. The Saints shall rejoice in glory: they shall be joyful in their beds.
℣. Cantate Domino canticum novum: laus ejus in Ecclesia Sanctorum. ℣. Sing ye to the Lord a new canticle: let his praise be in the church of the Saints.
Alleluia, alleluia. Alleluia, alleluia.
℣. Justi epulentur, et exsultent in conspectu Dei: et delectentur in lætitia. Alleluia. ℣. Let the just feast and rejoice before God, and be delighted with gladness. Alleluia.
Sequentia sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam. Sequel of the holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
Cap. vi. Ch. vi.
In illo tempore: Descendens Jesus de monte, stetit in loco campestri, et turba discipulorum ejus, et multitudo copiosa plebis ab omni Judæa, et Jerusalem, et maritima, et Tyri, et Sidonis, qui venerant ut audirent eum, et sanarentur a languoribus suis. Et qui vexabantur a spiritibus immundis, curabantur. Et omnis turba quærebat eum tangere: quia virtus de illo exibat, et sanabat omnes. Et ipse elevatis oculis in discipulis suis, dicebat: Beati pauperes, quia vestrum est regnum Dei. Beati qui nunc esuritis, quia saturabimini. Beati qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis. Beati eritis cum vos oderint homines, et cum separaverint vos, et exprobraverint, et ejicerint nomen vestrum tamquam malum propter Filium hominis. Gaudete in illa die, et exsultate: ecce enim merces vestra multa est in cælo. At that time, Jesus coming down from the mountain stood in a plain place, and the company of his disciples, and a very great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the sea coast both of Tyre and Sidon, Who were come to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. And they that were troubled with unclean spirits, were cured. And all the multitude sought to touch him, for virtue went out from him, and healed all. And he, lifting up his eyes on his disciples, said: Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are ye that hunger now: for you shall be filled. Blessed are ye that weep now: for you shall laugh. Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’ s sake. Be glad in that day and rejoice; for behold, your reward is great in heaven.

Amen, Amen, I say to you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do he also shall do, and greater than these shall he do! Our Lord was speaking of his Saints and disciples, who would believe in him so fully as to place their earthly happiness in poverty, hunger, mourning, and persecution. His words was to be accomplished in them during life; but frequently it was to be still more manifested after death, in the power retained by their relics of driving away demons, healing all diseases, and obtaining every grace. It is not only from the narrow province of Judæa, but from the coasts of the entire world, that multitudes now flock to hear the saints in the silent eloquence of their tombs, and to experience the virtue that goes out from them.

St. Paulinus of Nola thus speaks in his poems: “God, in his goodness, has willed that the Saints should be distributed among the nations, so that their aid might never be wanting to us weak mortals. If he has given the principal cities to the greatest Saints for their residence, the grace with which they are endowed for our sake is not confined to the places where their entire bodies rest; where there are but small portions, there is the same power, and God thus gives testimony to their credit in heaven. From the holy deposit the sacred ashes are scattered abroad, and become the seeds of life; let but the least drop be taken from the spring, and it is itself a source producing rivers of grace and of love.”

Let us, then, honor our Lord in his Saints; for it is from him, as the Offertory tells us, that all their power originates.

Mirabilis Deus in sanctis suis: Deus Israël ipse dabit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi suæ, benedictus Deus. Alleluia. God is wonderful in his Saints: the God of Israel is he who will give power and strength to his people: blessed be God. Alleluia.

“Who ever adored the Martyrs, or mistook a man for God?” asked St. Jerome, in his defense of the homage paid to sacred relics. And the Church shows, in her Secret, that the cultus of these venerable ashes is rendered to the Saints themselves; while the Saints’ own power is but a power of intercession before the Father of the divine Victim who wrought our salvation.

Imploramus, Domine, clementiam tuam: ut Santorum tuorum, quorum Reliquias veneramur, suffragantibus meritis, hostia quam offerimus nostrorum sit expioatio delictorum. Per Dominum. We implore thy mercy, O Lord, that by the suffrage of the merits of thy Saints, whose relics we venerate, the sacrifice which we offer may be the expiation of our sins. Through our Lord.

Then follow the Commemorations as above.

He that eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood, said the Man-God, I will raise him up in the last day. Holy Communion, which places in our bodies the germ of a glorious immortality, justifies the object of this feast, and explains its joy.

Gaudete justi in Domino: rectos decet collaudatio. Rejoice in the Lord ye just: praise becometh the upright.

How could we better conclude our prayers of today, than by expressing our desire of living eternally with the blessed, who have been gladdening us with the presence of their holy relics! This the Church does in the Postcommunion.

Then the Commemorations as before; and at the end of the Mass, the Gospel of the Sunday is read, instead of that of St. John.

Multiplica super nos, quæsumus Domine, per hæc Sancta quæ sumpsimus, misericordiam tuam: ut sicut in tuorum solemnitate Sanctorum, quorum Reliquias colimus, pia devotione lætamur, ita eorum perpetua societate, te largiente, fruamur. Per Dominum. Multiply thy mercy upon us, we beseech thee O Lord, by these holy mysteries which we have received, that as we rejoice with pious devotion in the solemnity of thy Saints, whose relics we venerate, so, by thy bounty, we may enjoy their eternal fellowship. Through our Lord.


This text is taken from The Liturgical Year, authored by Dom Prosper Gueranger (1841-1875)