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all saints and the commemoration of the dead

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  • asteresplanetai
    = + = ... Having a feast called All Saints of [insert your country here] is actually only a Russian custom; the Greeks and others don t do it, and their
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 31, 2004
      = + =

      > From: "Michael Joe Thannisch" <mjthan@...>
      > Subject: Re: A Stupid Question???
      > As I recall the Eastern Orthodox originally celebrated All Saints on 1
      > May
      > or March (I forget which), is this still true.

      > From: "James Morgan" <rdrjames@...>

      > No, not to my knowledge. All Saints is the first Sunday after
      > Pentecost,
      > and All Saints of your particular country (Russia, America, etc) is the
      > Sunday after that.

      Having a feast called "All Saints of [insert your country here]" is
      actually only a Russian custom; the Greeks and others don't do it, and
      their Pentecostarion (paschal service book) ends with the sunday of All

      In the US, the Orth. Ch. in America (which follows the Russian
      tradition) used to observe the Sunday of "All Saints of Russia" and
      leave it at that, but about 10-15 years ago, "All Ss of America" was
      instituted. I may be mistaken, but I seem dimly to recall that we had
      a year or two with an "All Ss of Russia" sunday followed by an "All Ss
      of America" sunday-- but if so, the two were quickly elided into "All
      Ss of America" only, and the Russian observation dropped.

      Some of us felt that having an "All Ss of America" feast was a bit
      premature-- compared to Russia, which has such an astonishing history
      of sanctity, we might seem to be putting on airs, with only a handful
      of saints so far. And it was not a bad thing to recall where we got our
      lineage from! In addition, there did seem to be some pressure to
      canonize more American saints so we could have something to sing
      (boast) about. But there actually have been a few, so i guess it's not
      without cause, even if it's a bit proleptic (or hopeful)-- and
      celebrating only Russia's saints did leave one feeling a little like,
      "Well, ok, so what are we, chopped liver?" The new feast settled the
      minor awkwardness that some were feeling, then, about a natioinalism
      with which one did not particularly identify-- especially as more and
      more of the OCA was of a "convert" background rather than ethnic
      russian. And to some degree the appearance of this feast was bound up
      also with the language issue, as we moved from serving the liturgy in
      slavonic to serving in english. But the Synod in Exile (ROCOR), which
      is at this point somewhat larger than the OCA (and very Russian as a
      point of pride), still does "All Sts of Russia" only (and for the most
      part liturgizes only in Russian as well).

      Anyway, the obvious idea in having such a feast (however denominated,
      nationally) is about the "progressive" descent of the Holy Spirit down
      to our own time and place-- first, on the Church, on Pentecost; then,
      the following sunday, on all the saints throughout history; and
      finally, on the local saints/lineage/tradition, through which we
      ourselves have encountered the message and fact of salvation. The point
      to be gotten here-- and i think effectively communicated by the
      calendar-- is that the descent of the Spirit, the shining forth of
      local saints, and the local Church are all very much part of the One
      Paschal/Pentecostal Event. In fact these feasts are the "end"-- in both
      senses of the word-- of the Church's paschal cycle, and this is very
      obvious. After All Saints, we begin "ordinary time"-- that is, the
      marking of time as the time when God makes saints of us, in every land
      and circumstance.

      Hallowe'en we don't have. We do offer special prayers for the dead on
      the first saturday of the beginning of "Advent" (and on other saturdays
      as well), but our main "All Souls' Day" is related to the paschal
      cycle, just as All Saints was; for just as All Saints was placed as the
      *result* of the paschal cycle, the "big" Soul Saturday is placed at its
      *beginning*, on the first saturday of Lent, a fitting end to the very
      strong effort we make in the first week of the Great Fast.

      As such, of course, "Soul Saturday" is a moveable feast determined by
      the lunar/paschal cycle. Your celebration of All Saints / All Souls is
      fixed because it was instituted to counteract the pagan autumn
      cross-quarter day (now "Hallowe'en"), a fixed part of the solar cycle.
      Apparently we didn't have any local pagan traditions like that to
      contend with, so such a counter-feast isn't part of our menaion. But as
      people lose their connection altogether with the Feast of All Saints
      and its associated great annual Requiem (Nov 2) (in fact no one in our
      culture even remembers All Souls' Day any more!), the fixed day of
      Hallowe'en seems to be re-emerging in urban america as the pagan "mardi
      gras" it apparently was to begin with. For our part, you kind of have
      to be following the paschal cycle in the first place, even to know
      about Soul Saturday-- so we've avoided some mischief, anyway. But for
      your part, making this feast convenient might not be the main problem
      you'll be facing in the years to come. You might find you need to
      insist on the fixed date all the more, to counteract the pagan
      festivities it was intended to counteract, in the first place!


      John Burnett.
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