The Feast of All Saints
Today: 8:30 am Matins; 9:30 am 9:30 am Divine Liturgy & Brunch
Tuesday: 6:00 pm Vespers
Thursday: 6:00 pm Vespers & Bridges to Contemplative Living
Saturday: 6:00 pm Vespers
Sunday: Today: 8:30 am Matins; 9:30 am 9:30 am Divine Liturgy, Brunch & Parish Council Meeting
In the early days Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighboring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the Province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration.
In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all.
The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Forerunner were honored by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization / glorification was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Orthodox Calendar a “Commemoration of the Confessors” for the Friday after Pascha.
The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI, “the Wise” (886-911). His wife, Empress Theophano lived a devout life. After her death, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to “All Saints,” so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated. According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.
This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.
The Sunday following All Saints Sunday (i.e., the second Sunday after Pentecost) is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as All Saints of America. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localized saints, such as “All Saints of Alaska.”