All Saints and All Souls

All Saints Day 2010 at Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm. Holger Motzkau 2010, Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons (cc-by-sa-3.0)

Better late than never.

These feast days happen on the 1st and 2nd of November respectively. I never celebrated or even knew about them until I became Catholic almost 10 years ago. But they are days to remember the saints and all the dead (respectively) and much has been written about them, in particular, some important music.

My parish hosted a concert on the evening of All Saints featuring some of this music. Our baritone soloist sang Allerseelen (All Souls Day) by Richard Strauss (words by Hermann von Gilm.) Here is a lovely version by Jessye Norman. The translated text:

Bring in the mignonettes’ fragrant spires,
the last red asters on the table lay,
and let again us speak of love’s desires,
like once in May.

Give me your hand in furtive, sweet advances –
if people see it, mind not what they say:
Give me just one of your delighting glances,
like once in May.

Today the graves are full of lights and flowers,
one day a year the dead shall hold their sway:
Spend on my heart again those lovely hours,
like once in May.

Every time I attend a concert with art song I promise myself to read more poetry.

Our choir did a number of pieces, but I particularly enjoyed Justorum Animae by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, based on the text from Solomon 3:1-3: “The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and the torment of malice shall not touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die, but they are in peace.” (Hear it here.)

This space in the liturgical year to remember those who have gone before us has been usurped by Hallowe’en. But there is a need to honour the spiritual bond between those of us on earth and those who have gone before. Catholics believe that there is efficacy in prayers for the dead, and at this time of year, we are reminded of our obligations to those who have gone before us.

Our concert Friday night ended with a rousing sing-along of For All The Saints by R. Vaughn Williams.  The fourth stanza perhaps gets at what I’m trying to say about the unity of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant:
Oh blest communion, fellowship divine!
We feebly struggle, they in glory shine;
Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine.
Alleluia, Alleluia.

Finally, I particularly liked this item from my Facebook feed this week and leave you with it:

all souls

1 thought on “All Saints and All Souls

  1. It was the patronal for All Saints at one of our three local churches today. We have a choir, albeit a very small one. I used to sing in it, but not now. I was thinking about that today (I was on the organ today), and my reasons for not singing.

    I found this a very beautiful post, because of the things I was thinking about. I don’t know if you have experienced times before when things seem not exactly bleak, but a bit flat or lost… and then you get a little sign, like this post.

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