Saturday, November 1, 2008

All Saints and Souls

Albrecht Dürer. Adoration of the Trinity. 1511. Vienna.
Now, at the same time, that, Raphaël was painting the Disputata, Dürer was painting supra. The painting is also known as All Saints (Allerheiligen). At top and center are the Trinity, surrounded by the denizens of paradise in heaven, below is the earth. Dürer has also placed himself, bottom right, and his patron, Matthäus Landauer, in the painting. His theology in oil and pigment is Augustine’s City of God. The bright and brilliant color he brought from his sojourns in Venice and Italy. Later in life, Dürer was much impressed by the new heretics, and Luther in particular, but he and his art were catholic.

To-day, all the saints, known and unknown, are commemorated in the latin church. The date of the day has been changed, since its origin in Antioch. The eastern church has kept it on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Gregory IV (835) fixed the first of November as the solemnity, Sollemnitas Omnium Sanctorum.

The next day is a penitential rejoinder, November 1st celebrates all those who share the beatific vision, November 2nd is All Souls. All Souls, Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum, is for all those who have died, and do not yet gaze upon God, and are undergoing purification. In the past, this solemn day was marked with purple or black vestments, now it is with white. Often, lit candles filled the church, and sometimes a book listing all those who have died, in the parish, was placed by the altar in remembrance and supplication.

Saint Odilo, abbot of Cluny, began this day a thousand ten years ago. It spread to other monasteries, and after a few centuries, to the rest of the church. The vigil before All Saints is All Hallows eve, Hallowe’en. We are all in this together, the living and the dead, the triumphant, militant and the suffering, the celebrating and the penitent.

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