Rahul Sharma (Editor)

All Souls' Day

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Covid-19
Type  Christian
All Souls' Day
Also called  Feast of All Souls; Defuncts' Day; Day of Remembrance; Commemoration of the Faithful Departed
Observed by  Roman Catholicism Eastern Orthodox Church various Anglican and Protestant denominations
Liturgical Color  Violet/purple or, where customary, black
Significance  For the souls of all good who have passed
Observances  Prayer for the departed, visits to cemeteries, special meals

In Christianity, All Souls' Day commemorates the faithful departed, in particular (but not exclusively) one's relatives. In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with the three days of Allhallowtide, including All Saints' Day (1 November) and its vigil, Halloween (31 October). In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church (the Latin Church) it is called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (Latin: Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum), and is celebrated annually on 2 November. In the ordinary form and Divine Worship form of the Roman Rite, it remains on 2 November if this date falls on a Sunday; in the extraordinary form, it is transferred to Monday, 3 November. On this day in particular, Catholics pray for the dead. In Anglicanism it is called Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration; Anglicans view All Souls' Day as an extension of the observance of All Saints' Day and it serves to "remember those who have died", in connection with the theological doctrines of the resurrection of the body and the Communion of Saints. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches, it is celebrated several times during the year and is not associated with the month of November.

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Beliefs and practices associated with All Souls' Day vary widely among Christian churches and denominations.

Byzantine (Greek) Catholic and the Eastern Orthodoxy

Among Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine (Greek) Catholics, there are several All Souls' Days during the year. Most of these fall on Saturday, since Jesus lay in the Tomb on Holy Saturday. They occur on the following occasions:

  • The Saturday of Meatfare Week (the second Saturday before Great Lent)—the day before the Sunday of the Last Judgement
  • The second Saturday of Great Lent
  • The third Saturday of Great Lent
  • The fourth Saturday of Great Lent
  • Radonitsa (Monday or Tuesday after Thomas Sunday)
  • The Saturday before Pentecost
  • Demetrius Saturday (the Saturday before the feast of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki—26 October) (In all of the Orthodox Church there is a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday before the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel—8 November, instead of the Demetrius Soul Saturday)
  • In the Serbian Orthodox Church there is also a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday closest to the Conception of St. John the Baptist—23 September

    In Slavic and Greek Churches, all of the Lenten Soul Saturdays are typically observed. In some of the Churches of the Eastern Mediterranean, Meatfare Saturday, Radonitsa and the Saturday before Pentecost are typically observed.

    In addition to the Sundays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos, unless some greater feast or saint's commemoration occurs.

    East Syriac Tradition

    East Syriac churches including the Syro Malabar Church and Chaldean Catholic Church commemorates the feast of departed faithful on the last Friday of Epiphany(which means Friday just before start of Great Lent). The season of Epiphany remembers the revelation of Christ to the world. And on each Fridays of season of Epiphany the church remembers some important figures in the evangelism.

    Apart from this In Syro Malabar Church Friday before the parish festival is also celebrated as feast of departed faithful. Here the parish remembers the activities of forefathers who worked for the parish and faithful. They also request the intercession of all departed for the faithful celebration of parish festival.

    In east Syriac liturgy the church remembers departed souls including saints on every Fridays throughout the year since the Christ was crucified and died on Friday.

    Roman Catholicism

    Prayer for the dead is a documented practice in Judaism and Christianity. The setting aside of a particular day for praying not for certain named individuals but for whole classes of the departed or for the dead in general cannot be traced to the earliest Christian centuries, but was well established by the end of the first millennium. Prayers for the deceased members of Benedictine monasteries were offered in the week after Pentecost and the practice of praying for the dead at a date near Pentecost was also followed in Spain in the 7th century. Other dates chosen were Epiphany and the anniversary of the death of some well-known saint, as shown by evidence from the beginning of the 9th century. By about 980, 1 October was an established date in Germany. The 11th century saw the introduction of a liturgical commemoration in diocesan calendars. In Milan the date was 16 October until changed in the second half of the 16th century to 2 November. This date, the day after All Saints' Day, was that which Saint Odilo of Cluny chose in the 11th century for all the monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny. From these the 2 November custom spread to other Benedictine monasteries and thence to the Western Church in general.

    The official name of the celebration in the Roman Rite liturgy is "The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed". In some countries the celebration is known as the Day of the Dead.

    In the Roman Rite as revised in 1969, if 2 November falls on a Sunday, the Mass is of All Souls, but the Liturgy of the Hours is that of the Sunday. However, public celebration of Lauds and Vespers of the Dead with the people participating is permitted. A Sunday celebration of All Souls' Day is not anticipated on Saturday evening, as are a Sunday Mass and that of a solemnity or feast of the Lord that replaces a Sunday. In countries where All Saints' Day is not a holy day of obligation attendance at an evening Mass of All Saints on Saturday 1 November satisfies the Sunday obligation. In every country, the formula of the Mass on that Saturday evening is that of the solemnity of All Saints, which outranks the Sunday of Ordinary Time whose Mass would normally be celebrated on that evening. However, in 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided that for that year the Saturday evening (Sunday vigil) Mass in that country was to be that of All Souls.

    In England and Wales, where holy days of obligation that fall on a Saturday are transferred to the following day, if 2 November is a Sunday, the solemnity of All Saints is transferred to that date, and All Souls Day is transferred to 3 November. In pre-1970 forms of the Roman Rite, still observed by some, if All Souls Day falls on a Sunday, it is always transferred to 3 November.

    Faithful departed may gain indulgence, either plenary or partial indulgence, if the living perform certain acts and meet the specified requirements.

    In Divine Worship: The Missal the minor propers (Introit, Gradual, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion) are those used for Renaissance and Classical musical requiem settings, including the Dies Irae. This permits the performance of traditional requiem settings in the context of the Divine Worship Form of the Roman Rite on All Souls Day as well as at funerals, votive celebrations of all faithful departed, and anniversaries of deaths.

    Anglican Communion

    In the Anglican Communion, All Souls' Day is known liturgically as the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, and is an optional observance seen as "an extension of All Saints' Day", the latter of which marks the second day of Allhallowtide. Historically and at present, several Anglican churches are dedicated to All Souls. During the English Reformation, the observance of All Souls' Day lapsed, although a new Anglican theological understanding of the day has "led to a widespread acceptance of this commemoration among Anglicans". Patricia Bays, with regard to the Anglican view of All Souls' Day, wrote that:

    All Souls Day (November 2) is a time when we particularly remember those who have died. The prayers appointed for that day remind us that we are joined with the Communion of Saints, that great group of Christians who have finished their earthly life and with who we share the hope of resurrection from the dead.

    As such, Anglican parishes "now commemorate all the faithful departed in the context of the All Saints' Day celebration", in keeping with this fresh perspective. Contributing to the revival was the need "to help Anglicans mourn the deaths of millions of soldiers in World War I". Members of the Guild of All Souls, an Anglican devotional society founded in 1873, "are encouraged to pray for the dying and the dead, to participate in a requiem of All Souls' Day and say a Litany of the Faithful Departed at least once a month".

    Protestant churches

    At the Reformation the celebration of All Souls' Day was fused with All Saints' Day in the Church of England, though it was renewed individually in certain churches in connection with the Oxford Movement of the 19th century. The observance was officially made prominent with the publication of the 1980 Alternative Service Book, and it features in Common Worship as a Lesser Festival called "Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day)".

    Among continental Protestants its tradition has been more tenaciously maintained. During Luther's lifetime, All Souls' Day was widely observed in Saxony although the Roman Catholic meaning of the day was discarded; ecclesiastically in the Lutheran Church, the day was merged with, and is often seen as an extension of All Saints' Day, with many Lutherans still visiting and decorating graves on all the days of Allhallowtide, including All Souls' Day. Just as it is the custom of French people, of all ranks and creeds, to decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, so German, Polish and Hungarian people stream to the graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers and special grave lights (see the picture). Among Czech people the custom of visiting and tidying graves of relatives on the day is quite common. In 1816, Prussia introduced a new date for the remembrance of the Dead among its Lutheran citizens: Totensonntag, the last Sunday before Advent. This custom was later also adopted by the non-Prussian Lutherans in Germany, but it has not spread much beyond the Protestant areas of Germany.

    In the Methodist Church, saints refer to all Christians and therefore, on All Saint's Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation are honoured and remembered. In Methodist congregations that celebrate the liturgy on All Souls Day, the observance, as with Anglicanism and Lutheranism, is viewed as an extension of All Saints' Day and as such, Methodists "remember our loved ones who had died" in their observance of this feast.

    Origins, practices and purposes

    Some believe that the origins of All Souls' Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs of ancestor veneration practiced worldwide, through events such as, in India Pitru Paksha, the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival. The Roman custom was that of the Lemuria.

    The formal commemoration of the saints and martyrs (All Saints' Day) existed in the early Christian church since its legalization, and alongside that developed a day for commemoration of all the dead (All Souls' Day). The modern date of All Souls' Day was first popularized in the early eleventh century after Abbot Odilo established it as a day for the monks of Cluny and associated monasteries to pray for the souls in purgatory.

    Many of these European traditions reflect the dogma of purgatory. For example, ringing bells for the dead was believed to comfort them in their cleansing there, while the sharing of soul cakes with the poor helped to buy the dead a bit of respite from the suffering of purgatory. In the same way, lighting candles was meant to kindle a light for the dead souls languishing in the darkness. Out of this grew the traditions of "going souling" and the baking of special types of bread or cakes.

    In Tirol, cakes are left for them on the table and the room kept warm for their comfort. In Brittany, people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones, and to anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it. At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls.

    In Bolivia, many people believe that the dead eat the food that is left out for them. In Brazil people attend a Mass or visit the cemetery taking flowers to decorate their relatives' grave, but no food is involved.

    In Malta many people make pilgrimages to graveyards, not just to visit the graves of their dead relatives, but to experience the special day in all its significance. Visits are not restricted to this day alone. During the month of November, Malta's cemeteries are frequented by families of the departed. Mass is also said throughout the month, with certain Catholic parishes organising special events at cemetery chapels.

    In Linz, funereal musical pieces known as aequales were played from tower tops on All Soul's Day and the evening before.

    References

    All Souls' Day Wikipedia


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