quod pro nobis traditum est

Monday, November 03, 2008

Commemoration of All Faithful Departed

Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum

Also known as All Souls' Day

The emphasis of The Feast of All Saints (Nov. 1), which in our parish we observed yesterday (Sunday, Nov. 2), is more on those, prophets, apostles and martyrs through whom we have received the divine revelation. In Christ Jesus we have communion with them and with the angels and archangels. Through the Lamb and His blood we have peace and communion with God.

The celebration of All Saints' Day being on Sunday means that the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (Nov. 2) is transferred to today, November 3. However, with the congregation gathered for the mass on Sunday, the faithful of our parish who died during the last year were also remembered in the Prayer of the Church. This prayer ended with the Collect for the Commemoration. (Liturgically, this Commemoration was included with yesterday's celebration of the Feast of All Saints.)

Below is the Collect of the Day for today's Commmemoration:

Almighty God, in whose glorious presence live all who depart in the Lord and before whom all the souls of the faithful who are delivered of the burden of the flesh are in joy and felicity, we give You hearty thanks for Your loving-kindness to all Your servants who have finished their course in faith and now rest from their labors, and we humbly implore Your mercy that we, together with all who have departed in the saving faith, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, in both body and soul, in Your eternal and everlasting glory; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Paul McCain said...

Thankfully, this observance was eliminated from The Lutheran Service Book. The "feast" was and is devoted to prayer for souls in purgatory and is thoroughly rooted and grounded in Roman error on that point.

All Saints is a wonderful celebration, "For All the Saints" as we sing.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Purgatory is certainly disputed among protestants. Luther wrote, " a word, I have decided for myself that there is a purgatory, but cannot force any others to the same decision." (1521, Luther's post-Reformation response to Exsurge Domine)

If we use the Lutheran basis of adiaphora the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed may be used, properly understood, as we see in the Collect of the Day. On this day there is opportunity for people to hear God's Word. For example those outside of Lutheranism would hear passages such as 1 Cor. 15:51-57 and John 5:25-29 and others may hear such passages as Isaiah 35:3-10 and 2 Peter 3:8-14. (That is, since the Word is so highly held.)

All Saints is a wonderful celebration indeed! There are some great hymns for that celebration such as "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones." It is good to see that that hymn also made it into the latest hymnal.

Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

It is illogical and impetuous to condemn a traditional feast merely because of the theology or circumstances that may have surrounded its origin. There are many other feasts, of the sanctoral as well as the temporal cycles of the Church Year, which we would also have to do away with if we were to take this line of reasoning. It is most Lutheran to take what the Western Tradition has handed to us, and use it for the sake of the Gospel, except for those things which would make such evangelical use quite impossible. All Souls Day is certainly in the former category.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

As a follow-up on my comment on Luther and purgatory I was surprised to find his thoughts of openness to purgatory in 1521. Here is a fuller excerpt of his response to Exsurge Domine:

"That there is a purgatory cannot be proved by those Scriptures which are approved and trustworthy. I have never yet denied that there is a purgatory, and I still hold that there is, as I have many times written and confessed, though I have no way of proving it incontrovertibly, either by Scripture or reason. I find in the Scriptures, indeed, that Christ, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Job, David, Hezekiah and some others tasted hell in this life. This I think to be purgatory, and it is not incredible that some of the dead suffer in like manner. Tauler has much to say about it, and, in a word, I have decided for myself that there is a purgatory, but cannot force any others to the same decision.

"There is only one thing that I have attacked, namely, the way in which they apply to purgatory passages of Scripture so inapplicable that it becomes ridiculous . . ."

1521 [Source: Works of Martin Luther (Philadelphia Edition) Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1930 pp. 11-116].

[This does not mean that Luther always held to purgatory. Nor does that concern us here. His point here is not whether or not purgatory exists but that it cannot be proven, in his view, by the then Roman interpretation of Scripture. So for him, even if he himself holds to purgatory he is expressing hermeneutical differences that he has with the Roman Church.]

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...

Apparently, I am faulted for poor scholarship for quoting Luther from 1521. To be clear, I prefer the "later" Luther to the "early" Luther if we are forced to choose between the two. Also, Luther's lectures on Genesis are arguably some of Luther's best writings (ie, sacramental thinking). Since I am no Luther scholar I will not drag this out but make only a few comments in response.

1) Luther was rightly troubled by the teaching of purgatory but primarily for its use in the practice of the Roman Church of his day. What he argues most vehemently against is the use of purgatory in terms of the marketing (the selling and buying ) of the forgiveness of sins. In other words, it was teaching that was distorted to force people into giving. That spiritual gain would come of this giving Luther rightly attacked. When I address Luther on purgatory this is what I understand to be his primary concern.

2) The 1521 quote does show a side of Luther that we are not very familiar with. Likewise, I read but have not had the chance to verify that he discusses purgatory in his Confession on the Lord's Supper of 1528. Once again, it is clear that I am not arguing that he may have always held these views as seems to be clear from citations from his lectures on Genesis.

3) Whether or not this is an "open question" that is for the reader to decide. When I found this quote and shared it was certainly shared without consideration of any categories of "open" or "closed" questions. That is certainly a side question, at best.

4) Neither was this quote shared in light of any current ecclesiastical discussions. Having not read or studied in depth recent Catholic writings on the topic I cannot base any conclusions for or against. What little I know about such developments though should, to Lutherans, seem somewhat promising. I would encourage the reader to investigate these writings for him/herself.

In conclusion, it appears that Luther does not want to play God as to what will happen the other side of death but he is more concerned that the forgiveness of sins and sanctification not be tied to the marketplace. On a positive note it is probably best to end here with a reference which was shared by another blogger where Luther writes on sanctfication in the Large Catechism (Creed, Third Article, 57-59). Thanks to the blogger for this reference.

One more thing, if Luther did indeed believe in purgatory or a sanctification upon or after death he would undoubtedly see it as God's work not man's and the end result would always be heaven.

Dan Woodring said...

You make some fine and interesting points, Timothy.

I don't know what Luther believed or didn't believe about purgatory. You know how easy it is to make him into a waxen nose.

Nor does it matter since Luther's writings are not authorative for the Lutheran Church. On that note, I find it interesting how little is said in the Book of Concord regarding purgatory. There is no mention of it in the Augsburg Confession, nor is it listed among abuses in the Roman Church. Where's article XXIX "On Purgatory"? The Apology makes a dozen or so mentions of purgatory, but never claim there is no such thing as purgatory.

In the Smalcald Articles, Luther states: 'St. Augustine does not write that there is a purgatory, nor does he cite any passage of the Scriptures that would contrain him to adopt such an option. He leaves it undecided whether or not there is a purgatory and merely mentions that his mother asked that she be remembered at the altar or sacrament."

This was a particularly disturbing one to me because, in fact, Augustine does teach and write about purgatory, Luther is dishonest here.

Still, one simply does not find in the Lutheran Confessions the kind of reaction against Purgatory that one finds by your fellow Lutheran bloggers, or even in those passages from Luther's commentary on Genesis. And here you have just a handful of quotations within the huge corpus of Luther's works.

What may be the most fascinating thing to me is that the Apology (24.96) ACCEPTS prayers made for the dead. That begs the question, if there is no such thing as purgatory, what on earth for? (or not on earth for?) Those in heaven do not need our prayers, and those in hell will not be helped by them.

FWIW, I apologize if my comments make the criticism toward you more hostile.

Fr. Timothy D. May, SSP said...


Thank you for the comments and the confessional references. The Luther citations I fell across by accident and with not a little bit of surprise. Luther's writings are not authoritative for the Lutheran Church - good point. Finally, I appreciate your reference to Apology 24.96. Though the Lutheran Church today may be especially weak in her understanding and practice of these prayers it is certainly included in her confession so such practice cannot be denied.

You are most welcome to add your comments here. Whatever reactions they may raise is fine.