Vigils

VIGIL OF CHRISTMAS
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 24, 2014
In the first ages, during the night before every feast, a vigil was kept. In the evening the faithful assembled in the place or church where the feast was to be celebrated and prepared themselves by prayers, readings from Holy Writ (now the Offices of Vespers and Matins), and sometimes also by hearing a sermon. On such occasions, as on fast days in general, Mass also was celebrated in the evening, before the Vespers of the following day. Towards morning the people dispersed to the streets and houses near the church, to wait for the solemn services of the forenoon.

This vigil was a regular institution of Christian life and was defended and highly recommended by St. Augustine and St. Jerome (see Pleithner, “Aeltere Geschichte des Breviergebetes”, pp. 223 sq.). The morning intermission gave rise to grave abuses; the people caroused and danced in the streets and halls around the church (Durandus, “Rat. Div. off.”, VI, 7), and St. Jerome speaks of these improprieties (Epist. ad Ripuarium).

The Synod of Seligenstadt (1022) mentions vigils on the eves of Christmas, Epiphany, the feast of the Apostles, the Assumption of Mary, St. Laurence, and All Saints, besides the fast of two weeks before the Nativity of St. John. After the eleventh century the fast, Office, and Mass of the nocturnal vigil were transferred to the day before the feast, and even now [1909] the liturgy of the Holy Saturday (vigil of Easter) shows, in all its parts, that originally it was not kept on the morning of Saturday, but during Easter Night. The day before the feast was henceforth called vigil.

A similar celebration before the high feast exists also in the Orthodox (Greek) Church, and is called pannychis or hagrypnia. In the Occident only the older feasts have vigils, even the feasts of the first class introduced after the thirteenth century (Corpus Christi, the Sacred Heart) have no vigils, except the Immaculate Conception, which Pope Leo XIII (Nov. 30 1879) singled out for this distinction. The number of vigils in the Roman Calendar besides Holy Saturday is seventeen, viz., the eves of Christmas, the Epiphany, the Ascension, Pentecost, the Immaculate Conception, the Assumption, the eight feasts of the Apostles, St. John the Baptist, St. Laurence, and All Saints. Some dioceses and religiousorders have particular vigils, e.g. the Servites, on the Saturday next before the feast of the Seven Dolours of Our Lady; the Carmelites, on the eve of the feast of Mount Carmel. In the United States only four of theses vigils are feast days: the vigils of Christmas, Pentecost, the Assumption, and All Saints.


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Halloween

All Saints and All Souls Day evolved in the Catholic Church independent of any Celtic or pagan influence, mostly (see the Pope Gregory III part).

The Church, born from the side of Christ, commissioned at His ascension (forty days after the resurrection) and made manifest (fifty days after the resurrection) at Pentecost, was persecuted from it’s very beginning.  Before St. Paul’s conversion we know that Christians were stoned (see the Stoning of St. Stephen Acts 7:54-60) .  The first persecution by the Romans was in 64 A.D. when Emperor Nero blamed the burning of Rome on the Christians and had them fed to wild dogs and burned as lighting for evening parties.

Jesus had taught us in the Beatitudes:

“Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

So, from the very beginning Christians recognized the beatitude, the “supreme happiness”, the holiness that came from death and venerated these martyrs as being in the presence of God, as holy, as Saints.  If at all possible, they kept remains of the martyrs as relics to remind them of the promise of eternal happiness and would recognize the anniversary of their brothers martyrdom and the place where it happened.

Through the Edict of Milan (and the Edict of Toleration by Galerius, 311AD), Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in 313AD (More importantly, in 321AD Constantine’s edict created the weekend).  Now Christians could be more open about their worship and practices and “neighbouring 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 (379) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. ” New Advent

In the East, the city of Edessa celebrated a feast day on May 13; the Syrians, on the Friday after Easter; and the city of Antioch, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Both St. Ephrem (d. 373) and St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) attest to a feast day in their preaching. In the West, a commemoration for all the saints also was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The primary reason for establishing a common feast day was because of the desire to honor the great number of martyrs, especially during the persecution of Emperor Diocletion (284-305), the worst and most extensive of the persecutions. Quite simply, there were not enough days of the year for a feast day for each martyr and many of them died in groups. A common feast day for all saints, therefore, seemed most appropriate.

May 13, 609 A.D., Pope Boniface IV creates All Martyrs Day during the dedicated the Pantheon in Rome in honor of all Christian martyrs.

Pope Gregory III (731–741) later expanded the festival to include all saints as well as all martyrs, and moved the observance from May 13 to November 1.

In 1000 A.D., the church would make November 2 All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead.  All Souls Day was celebrated with bonfires and dressing up in costumes as saints and angels. The All Saints Day celebration was also called Allhallows Eve (Eve of All Saints).

Key Dates
30 A.D – The Church is born, commissioned, made manifest
50 – Paul’s first writings as a Christian
64 – First Roman persecution
70 – Temple Falls
284-305 – Diocletian
311 – Edict of Toleration
313 –  Edict of Milan
321 – weekend
379 – common feast day
609 – Pope Boniface “All Matyrs Day” May 13
736ish – Pope Gregory III moves it to Nov 1
1000 AD – All Souls Day


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The Tale of Jack O’Lantern

A Read-aloud Story from Catholic Update

Jack, the Irish say, grew up in a simple village where he earned a reputation for cleverness as well as laziness. He applied his fine intelligence to wiggling out of any work that was asked of him, preferring to lie under a solitary oak endlessly whittling. In order to earn money to spend at the local pub, he looked for an “easy shilling” from gambling, a pastime at which he excelled. In his whole life he never made a single enemy, never made a single friend and never performed a selfless act for anyone.

One Halloween, as it happened, the time came for him to die. When the devil arrived to take his soul, Jack was lazily drinking at the pub and asked permission to finish his ale. The devil agreed, and Jack thought fast. “If you really have any power,” he said slyly, “you could transform yourself into a shilling.”

The devil snorted at such child’s play and instantly changed himself into a shilling. Jack grabbed the coin. He held it tight in his hand, which bore a cross-shaped scar. The power of the cross kept the devil imprisoned there, for everyone knows the devil is powerless when faced with the cross. Jack would not let the devil free until he granted him another year of life. Jack figured that would be plenty of time to repent. The devil left Jack at the pub.

The year rolled around to the next Halloween, but Jack never got around to repenting. Again the devil appeared to claim his soul, and again Jack bargained, this time challenging him to a game of dice, an offer Satan could never resist, but a game that Jack excelled at. The devil threw snake eyes—two ones—and was about to haul him off, but Jack used a pair of dice he himself had whittled. When they landed as two threes, forming the T-shape of a cross, once again the devil was powerless. Jack bargained for more time to repent.

He kept thinking he’d get around to repentance later, at the last possible minute. But the agreed-upon day arrived and death took him by surprise. The devil hadn’t showed up and Jack soon found out why not. Before he knew it Jack was in front of the pearly gates. St. Peter shook his head sadly and could not admit him, because in his whole life Jack had never performed a single selfless act. Then Jack presented himself before the gates of hell, but the devil was still seething. Satan refused to have anything to do with him.

“Where can I go?” cried Jack. “How can I see in the darkness?”

The devil tossed a burning coal into a hollow pumpkin and ordered him to wander forever with only the pumpkin to light his path. From that day to this he has been called “Jack o’ the Lantern.” Sometimes he appears on Halloween!


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