All Souls' Day

views updated Jun 27 2018


A liturgical day of the Roman rite commemorating all the faithful departed. It is observed on November 2, and since 1970 takes precedence if it falls on a Sunday. The Byzantine Churches observe a similar feast before Lent and Pentecost, the Armenian Church on Easter Monday.

Christians retained customs and patterns of memorial for the dead from pagan antiquity. They celebrated the memory of the deceased on the third day after death and the yearly anniversary; later, observance was made on the seventh and thirtieth day and in some places the fortieth day after a person's death. Attempts of local churches to observe a feast commemorating all the departed can be traced back to the early Middle Ages, possibly arising in imitation of the commemorations of deceased members customary in monastic communities. In Spain, for example, the Monday after Pentecost was dedicated to the commemoration of the deceased in the time of St. Isidore of Seville (d. 636). Abbot Eigil of Fulda prescribed December 17, the anniversary of the monastery's founder, as commemoration of all the deceased at the beginning of the ninth century.

The choice of November 2 is traditionally attributed to St. odilo, the fifth abbot of Cluny (d. 1048). Odilo decreed in 998 that all Cluniac monasteries should follow the example of Cluny in offering special prayers and singing the Office for the Dead on the day following the feast of all saints. Due to the influence of Cluny, the custom spread quickly through France, Germany, and England and was finally adopted in Italy and Rome in the thirteenth century.

The custom of having each priest celebrate three Masses seems to have originated among the Spanish Dominicans during the fifteenth century. After this privilege was approved by benedict xiv in 1748, it was rapidly adopted throughout Spain, Portugal, and Latin America. During World War I, benedict xv, moved by the number of war casualties, granted to all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses: Of these one could be said for a particular intention; another celebrated for all the faithful departed, particularly for all the Mass foundations that had been unfulfilled or forgotten over time; and the third for the intentions of the pope.

Throughout the Middle Ages it was popular belief that the souls in purgatory could appear on this day as will-o'-the-wisps, witches, toads, etc., to persons who had wronged them during their life. Genuine Christian concern for the deceased along with folkloric culture were the reasons for the great number of pious foundations for Masses and prayers on their behalf. Many different popular customs and practices, especially various forms of food offerings, were associated with All Souls' Day. Among religious traditions, the parish procession to the cemetery, visiting the graves of relatives and friends, and leaving flowers and lights on the graves have remained almost universal.

The liturgy of All Souls' Day was revised to express more clearly the paschal character of Christian death and proclaim the paschal mystery of Christ as the foundation of hope and consolation (cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 81). The Sacramentary contains three Mass formularies, but the rubrics that each priest may offer three Masses and that the first formulary should be used for the principal Mass are omitted. The readings are taken from the Lectionary for the Masses for the Dead, and the prefaces of Christian Death are prescribed. The prayers speak of the reality and sadness of death, always in the context of the hope given in Christ Jesus, the resurrection and the life, that all who die in faith share the promise of immortality. The Book of Blessings (1989) provides an order for visiting the cemetery recommended for All Soul's Day (nos. 17341754), and the Ceremonial of Bishops recommends a rite of sprinkling and incensation of burial sites (nos. 395403) using texts from the Order of Christian Funerals.

Bibliography: a. adam, The Liturgical Year, trans. m. o'connell (New York 1981). k. a. h. kellner, Heortology (St. Louis 1908) 326328. t. maertens and l. heuschen, Doctrine et pastorale de la liturgie de la mort (Bruges 1957). c. a. kneller, "Geschichtliches über die drei Messen am Allerseelentag," Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 42 (1918) 74113. d. k. tripp, "The Spirituality of the Little Office of the BVM and the Office for the Dead," Worship 63 (1989) 218221.

[a. cornides/eds.]

All Souls Day

views updated Jun 11 2018

All Souls Day ★½ Dia de los Muertos 2005

Vargas Diaz's 1892 brutal rampage in a small Mexican town on the symbolic “Day of the Dead” causes his murderous soul to haunt the locals for years, leading them to perform certain acts to keep the zombies at bay. First up to be terrorized is a 1950's family with a sick boy and a hot teenaged girl who takes the standard “something-bad-is-about-to-happen” steamy bath. Then, in the present, Joss (Wester) and Alicia (Ramirez) seem doomed when they unknowingly interrupt the long-standing rite and must flee the same creepy hotel. Sci-Fi Channel original should have let the walking dead lie. 90m/C DVD . Travis Wester, Nichole Hiltz, Laz Alonso, Laura Elena Harring, Marisa Ramirez, David Keith, Jeffrey Combs, Ellie Cornell, Julia Vera, Daniel Burgio, Mircea Monroe, Danny Trejo, Noah Luke; D: Jeremy Kasten; W: Mark Altman; C: Christopher Duddy; M: Joseph Gutowski. CABLE

All Souls Day

views updated Jun 11 2018

All Souls' Day • n. a festival in some Christian churches with prayers for the souls of the dead, held on November 2.

All Souls Day

views updated May 21 2018

All Souls' Day Day of remembrance and prayer for all the departed souls. Observed by Roman Catholics and High Church Anglicans on November 2, or November 3 if the former falls on a Sunday.