All Saints, Solemnity of
ALL SAINTS, SOLEMNITY OF
A feast in honor of all the saints, celebrated on November 1 in the West. The origins of this feast are uncertain. First mention comes from the East, in a hymn composed by St. Ephraem in c. 359, where a commemoration of all the martyrs at Edessa on May 13 is mentioned (Carmen 6; Corpus scriptorum Christianorum orientalium [Paris-Louvain 1903] 219:27). By 411, however, the East Syrians kept this commemoration on the Friday after Easter [Breviarium Syriacum, ed. Mariani (Rome 1956) 34]). A sermon of St. John Chrysostom marks the observance of a feast of all the martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentecost (Patrologia Graeca, ed. J. P. Migne, 50:705). When Chrysostom preached this sermon is not known, and therefore whether the feast occurred in Antioch or Constantinople is uncertain. If he preached it at Constantinople after he became patriarch (398), this would be the earliest reference to the feast there, still observed by the Byzantine Rite on the Sunday after Pentecost.
An observance of all the martyrs on the Sunday after Pentecost also appears in the West. St. Maximus of Turin (5th century) preached in honor of all the martyrs on the same Sunday (Hom. 81; Patrologia Latina, ed. J. P. Migne (Paris 1878–90) 57:427). The commemoration soon included nonmartyrs as well, for the Comes of Würzburg, the earliest epistle list for Rome (an 8th-century manuscript witnessing to readings used in the late 6th or early 7th century), lists this Sunday as dominica in natale sanctorum or Sunday of the Nativity of the Saints (Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne et de liturgie, ed. F. Cabol, H. Leclercq, and H. I. Marrou (Paris 1907–53) 8.2:2292). It seems to serve as an octave day for Pentecost. The feast is encountered again in the Comes of Murbach, which lists readings accompanying the 8th-century family of mixed sacramentaries that preceded the Charlemagne's reform.
Rome also knew of another feast of all the martyrs before adopting November 1. In 609 or 610, Boniface IV received the Roman Pantheon from the Emperor Phocas (d. 610) and dedicated it under the title S. Maria ad Martyres [Liber Pontificalis, ed. L. Duchesne (Paris 1955) 1:317]. The dedication occurred on May 13, and the anniversary was later observed with great festivity. Many see in this the origin of All Saints' Day. It may be, however, that the feast of May 13 was simply the anniversary of the dedication, or that Boniface chose this date because it was already associated with all the martyrs in the East. Some scholars have suggested that the date was chosen to offset the pagan Lemuria (placating of the gods), observed on May 9, 11, and 13 (P. Radó). The liturgical books that witness to this period make no mention of a feast of all the martyrs that would be in continuity with the Syriac feast mentioned by Ephraem.
How a feast of all the saints came to be celebrated on November 1 has not yet been demonstrated. Gregory III (731–41) dedicated an oratory in St. Peter's Basilica to "all the apostles, martyrs, confessors, and all the just and perfect who are at rest throughout the whole world." (Liber Pontificalis 1:417). The precise date of the dedication in early 732 is not known. In England, Bede mentioned a feast of all the saints in his two martyrologies (e.g., Patrologia Latina 94:1087). Egbert of York had been ordained deacon in Rome in 732 and had received the pallium from Gregory himself. If Egbert is the founder of the English feast, he may have accepted November 1 as the dedication of Gregory's oratory. Arno of Salzburg called for a festival of all saints on November 1 for Southeast Germany in 798. In 799, Alcuin, who was educated at Egbert's cathedral of York, commended Arno, Archbishop of Salzburg, for observing the feast of November 1 (Epist. 91; Patrologia Latina 100:296). The feast, however, does not appear in Alcuin's supplement to the Gregorian Sacramentary.
According to John Beleth (d. ca. 1165), Gregory IV (827–44) transferred the feast of May 13 to November 1 because provisions were inadequate for the numerous pilgrims coming to Rome for the feast in May (Rationale divinorum officiorum, 127; Patrologia Latina 202:133– 134). There is no scholarly consennsus on the matter. H. Schmid denied any connection between the two dates, positing that the November feast originated in Gaul and was immediately adopted in Rome.
According to Ado of Vienne (800–75), this same pontiff asked Louis the Pious (778–840) to extend the feast of November 1 throughout the empire (Martyrologium, Patrologia Latina 123:387). Sigebert (d. 1112) in his chronicle, for some unknown reason, assigns the year 835 to this event (Patrologia Latina 160:159). In fact, in the 9th and 10th centuries, November 1 is listed as Natale omnium sanctorum, e.g., in the Sacramentary of Corbie (Patrologia Latina 78:146). According to Sicard of Cremona (d. 1215), it was Gregory VII (1073–85) who definitively suppressed the feast of May 13 in favor of November 1 (Mitrale, Patrologia Latina 213:414). Indeed, in the 12th century, May 13 disappears from the liturgical books.
Other scholars, however, with good reason oppose such attempts to connect May 13 and November 1. J. Hennig believes May 13 was simply the anniversary of a dedication and not a feast of all the martyrs. He places the origin of November 1 in Ireland, whence the feast passed to Northumberland and then to the Continent. There is an allusion to a feast of all the saints on November 1 in the oldest Irish martyrology, the Félire of Oengus. This book also gives a feast of all the saints of Europe on April 20 and of all the saints of Africa on December 23. Ireland and Britain were considered apart from Europe and so would want a feast of their own saints. The Irish often assigned the first of the month to important feasts, and since November 1 was also the beginning of the Celtic winter, it would have been a likely date for a feast of all the saints. The feast may also have been Christian response to the Druid festival of the dead, Samhain.
The feast had a vigil from early times, and an octave was introduced by Sixtus IV (1471–84), who established the feast for the whole Latin Rite. Both vigil and octave were suppressed in 1955. All Saints is ranked as a solemnity and classified as a holy day of obligation (CIC c. 1246). The euchology of the Mass speaks of the holiness of the people of God through the images of joy, forgiveness, beatitude, and mutual love. Not only does the Church praise God for all the dead who have obtained heavenly glory, but commits itself to the journey to the heavenly Jerusalem, the place where all God's people are in communion (Rv 7.9 [Second reading]).
Bibliography: j. h. miller, Fundamentals of the Liturgy (Notre Dame, Ind. 1960) 418–19. p. radÓ, Enchiridion liturgicum, 2 v. (Rome 1961) 2:1391–95. m. righetti, Manuale di storia liturgica, 4 v. (Milan): v.2 (2d ed. 1955) 2:207–09. h. a. p. schmidt, Introductio in liturgiam occidentalem (Rome 1959). j. hennig, "The Meaning of All The Saints," Mediaeval Studies 10 (1948) 147–61. p. jounel, "Le Sanctoral romain du 8e au 12e siècles," Maison-Dieu 52 (1957) 59–88. oengus the culdee, Martyrology (Félire ), ed. w. stokes (Henry Bradshaw Society 29; London 1905). t. j. talley, "The Evolution of a Feast," Liturgy 5, no. 2 (1985) 43–48.