All Saints Day

After this I had a vision of a great multitude,
which no one could count,
from every nation, race, people, and tongue.
They stood before the throne and before the Lamb,
wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.
They cried out in a loud voice:

“Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne,
and from the Lamb.”

All the angels stood around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures.
They prostrated themselves before the throne,
worshiped God, and exclaimed:

“Amen. Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving,
honor, power, and might
be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

Revelation 7:9-12

Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints, instituted to honor all the saints, known and unknown. It owes its origin in the Western Church to the dedication of the Roman Pantheon in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs by Pope Saint Boniface IV in 609, the anniversary of which was celebrated at Rome on 13 May. Pope Saint Gregory III consecrated a chapel in the Vatican basilica in honor of All Saints, designating 1 November as their feast. Pope Gregory IV extended its observance to the whole Church. It has a vigil and octave, and is a holy day of obligation; the eve is popularly celebrated as Halloween.

The early Renaissance artist, Fra Angelico, who was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1982 and whose name means “Angelic Friar,” is described by Vasari in his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects as having “a rare and perfect talent.”

 

 

 Last Judgment, Fra Angelico, c. 1431, Tempera on panel, 105 x 210 cm, Museo di San Marco, Florence


Last Judgment, Fra Angelico, c. 1431, Tempera on panel, 105 x 210 cm, Museo di San Marco, Florence

From Web Gallery of Art:

“Elevated in the deep azure sky and surrounded by concentric rings of cherubim and angels, Christ sits on a glowing bank of clouds as he judges the world. He is flanked by the interceding figures of John the Baptist and the Virgin. Rows of saints and prophets, identified by their distinctive attributes, varied expressions and brilliantly coloured mantles, sit suspended on clouds in the heavens. A long row of tombs leads to the distant horizon, bisecting the valley below. To the right of Christ, the Blessed kneel in adoration, their faces radiant with the love of God, as angels dance in a circle in the verdant vegetation of Paradise. Golden rays of light stream through the open gates of the City of God and illuminate the white gowns of the Blessed seeking entry. To Christ’s left, demons with pitchforks drive the agonized Damned into the mouth of a mountainous Hell. The ghastly torments that await them are portrayed within its flaming circles, where naked sinners, some strangled with snakes, suffer for their transgressions.

The abundance of figures (270 in all), nuanced evocation of their emotions, descending perspective of the row of tombs and ascending landscape reveal a mastery of narrative and space that was unprecedented in Angelico’s small-scale works.”

Detail of Saints in Heaven from The Last Judgment by Fra Angelico

Detail of Saints in Heaven from Last Judgment by Fra Angelico

 

At his Angelus audience on November 1, 2013, Pope Francis said that the feast of All Saints is a reminder “that the end of our earthly existence is not death, but rather paradise!”

The Pope reminded the crowd in St. Peter’s Square that the saints “are not supermen, nor were they born perfect. They are like us.” What distinguishes the saints, he said, is that “when they knew God’s love, they followed him with all their heart, without conditions or hypocrisy.”

“The saints never hated,” the Pope continued. “Hate does not come from God, but from the devil! And the Saints distanced themselves from the devil.”

Returning to his central theme, the Pope emphasized that sanctity is not an unattainable goal. “All of us, in baptism, receive the inheritance of being able to become saints. Saintliness is a vocation for all.”

The Kingdom of Heaven, the Pope said, “is for those who do not base their security in material things, but rather in the love of God.” Jesus shows this path to sanctity in the beatitudes, he said, and the witness of the saints teaches us to “trust in the Lord, because the Lord never disappoints.”

 

 

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