All Souls Day is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church on the day after All Saints Day. Historically it has been viewed as remembering the faithful departed who yet have time to serve in Purgatory, and are on their way to future heavenly blessedness. Observance tends to focus on family members. In Anglican churches, it is an extension of All Saints Day, merely remembering the faithful departed.
you are the glory of believers
and the life of the just.
Your son redeemed us
by dying and rising to life again.
Since our departed brothers and sisters
believed in the mystery of our resurrection,
let them share the joys and blessings
of the life to come.
(You can find this prayer in the context of “The Office for the Dead” here).
In the wake of Harvey’s devastation comes the even more powerful Irma. Our hopes and prayers go out to those affected by this monster of a storm, and those who are yet in its path.
A prayer for protection against storms and floods (Roman Catholic):
Graciously hear us, O Lord, when we call upon You,
and grant unto our supplications a calm atmosphere,
that we, who are justly afflicted for our sins,
may, by Your protecting mercy, experience pardon.
Through Christ our Lord.
Prayer in time of storm (Anglican):
O MOST glorious and gracious Lord God, who dwellest in heaven, but beholdest all things below: Look down, we beseech thee, and hear us, calling out of the depth of misery, and out of the jaws of this death, which is ready now to swallow us up: Save, Lord, or else we perish. The living, the living shall praise thee. O send thy word of command to rebuke the raging winds, and the roaring sea; that we, being delivered from this distress, may live to serve thee, and to glorify thy Name all the days of our life. Hear, Lord, and save us, for the infinite merits of our blessed Saviour, thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Thomas Cranmer, the Archbishop of Canterbury who presided over the conversion of the English realm from Roman Catholicism to Protestantism, penned what is the first official English Language ceremony, the “Great Litany”, in 1544. He drew upon litanies in the old “Sarum Rite” as well as the litany of Martin Luther. The Litany is a collection of prayers and petitions, and is generally used in the penitential seasons of Lent and Advent.
The text of the litany is posted below. Here are two small portions of that Litany, sung in a beautiful setting by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585), who is considered by many the “father of Anglican music.” An organist at Waltham Abbey, he later became a gentleman of the Chapel Royal, and was a teacher of William Byrd.
We will hear the Gentlemen of the Choir of Saint Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue, NYC. Here are the opening sentences, an invocation of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
Now I’ll move to the end. The sublime concluding phrases here remind me of the somber ending to Tallis’ great work “The Lamentations of Jeremiah.”
The entire Litany in its appropriate context within a communion service, is available online for a period of time at the website for this church.
The Text of the Litany (From the Book of Common Prayer, 1928). Responses from the congregation/choir are in italics.
O GOD the Father, Creator of heaven and earth; Have mercy upon us.
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world; Have mercy upon us.
O God the Holy Ghost, Sanctifier of the faithful; Have mercy upon us.
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, one God; Have mercy upon us.
REMEMBER not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever. Spare us, good Lord.
FROM all evil and mischief; from sin; from the crafts and assaults of the devil; from thy wrath, and from everlasting damnation, Good Lord, deliver us.
From all blindness of heart; from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred, and malice, and all uncharitableness, Good Lord, deliver us.
From all inordinate and sinful affections; and from all the deceits of the world, the flesh, and the devil, Good Lord, deliver us.
From lightning and tempest; from earthquake, fire, and flood; from plague, pestilence, and famine; from battle and murder, and from sudden death, Good Lord, deliver us.
From all sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart, and contempt of thy Word and Commandment, Good Lord, deliver us.
By the mystery of thy holy Incarnation; by thy holy Nativity and Circumcision; by thy Baptism, Fasting, and Temptation, Good Lord, deliver us.
By thine Agony and Bloody Sweat; by thy Cross and Passion; by thy precious Death and Burial; by thy glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Ghost, Good Lord, deliver us.
In all time of our tribulation; in all time of our prosperity; in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment, Good Lord, deliver us.
WE sinners do beseech thee to hear us, O Lord God; and that it may please thee to rule and govern thy holy Church universal in the right way; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee so to rule the heart of thy servant, The President of the United States, that he may above all things seek thy honour and glory; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bless and preserve all Christian Rulers and Magistrates, giving them grace to execute justice, and to maintain truth; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to illuminate all Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, with true knowledge and understanding of thy Word; and that both by their preaching and living they may set it forth, and show it accordingly; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to send forth labourers into thy harvest; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bless and keep all thy people; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us an heart to love and fear thee, and diligently to live after thy commandments; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give to all thy people increase of grace to hear meekly thy Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to bring into the way of truth all such as have erred, and are deceived; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to strengthen such as do stand; and to comfort and help the weak-hearted; and to raise up those who fall; and finally to beat down Satan under our feet; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort, all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land, by water, or by air, all women in child-birth, all sick persons, and young children; and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children, and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to forgive our enemies, persecutors, and slanderers, and to turn their hearts; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so that in due time we may enjoy them; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
That it may please thee to give us true repentance; to forgive us all our sins, negligences, and ignorances; and to endue us with the grace of thy Holy Spirit to amend our lives according to thy holy Word; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.
Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us. Son of God, we beseech thee to hear us.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world; Grant us thy peace.
O Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world; Have mercy upon us.
O Christ, hear us. O Christ, hear us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
Christ, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.
I offer this in fond memory of Leonard Nimoy, who played one of childhood heroes, Mr. Spock from Star Trek. (So as not to date myself, I’ll hasten to add that it was in syndication).
I have read that when Leonard Nimoy came up with this gesture for Mr. Spock’s famous “live long and prosper” Vulcan salute, he was thinking back to his childhood religion of Judaism. This reflects the gesture of the kohanim (descendents of Aaron, the brother of Moses) when giving what is called the Aaronic blessing. This is recorded in the pages of the Old Testament:
And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, “Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
The LORD bless thee and keep thee:
The LORD make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
Leonard Nimoy discussed this in a 2000 interview with the Baltimore Sun (online here):
“It was my addition to the character, and it came from an experience I had as a child with my parents. In the blessing, the Kohanim (a high priest of a Hebrew tribe) makes the gesture with both hands, and it struck me as a very magical and mystical moment. I taught myself how to do it without even knowing what it meant, and later I inserted it into “Star Trek.” There was a scene in one episode that needed something. People were seeing other members of the Vulcan race for the first time, and I thought it called for a special gesture.”
This blessing (without the gesture) has carried into Christianity as well, and is often given at the end of a church service, as a benediction. As you might expect, this blessing has inspired musicians and composers as well. I leave you with lovely setting of the benediction, which I have found. The composer was Christian Peter Lutkin (1858–1931), a respected choir director and organist who became the first dean of the School of Music at Northwestern University in suburban Chicago.
Feb 1 is the feast day of St. Brigit of Kildare, Ireland (453-523). She is controversial (some scholars believe that she didn’t really exist, but is a Christianization of the pagan goddess named “Brigid”; though she is well attested by numerous sources). She is believed to have born into slavery to a druid, but was returned to her parents around age 10. She was an abbess, who founded several monasteries, including in about 480 AD the “cell dara” (Kildare), the “church of the oak hill”. This foundation became a center of learning, and eventually a cathedral city. She is said to have been generous toward the poor and to women.
There is an amusing but touching prayer attributed to St. Brigid (probably written later):
I’d like to give a lake of beer to God. I’d love the heavenly Host to be tippling there For all eternity.
I’d love the men of Heaven to live with me, To dance and sing. If they wanted, I’d put at their disposal Vats of suffering.
White cups of love I’d give them With a heart and a half; Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer To every man.
I’d make Heaven a cheerful spot Because the happy heart is true. I’d make the men contented for their own sake. I’d like Jesus to love me too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather From all the parishes around. I’d give a special welcome to the women, The three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women and God There by the lake of beer. We’d be drinking good health forever And every drop would be a prayer.
I am not sure of the source but one website notes that this is from an 11th century Irish poem attributed to St Brigit taken from a manuscript in the Burgundian Library, Brussels and edited and translated by O’Curry. From http://www.brigitsforge.co.uk/st_ffraid.htm.
Well, I agree with the sentiment. And next time I pick up a glass, I’ll think of St. Brigid and her Irish homeland.
I was looking at children’s prayers for bedtime, and came across something very interesting. One of the common prayers that has made it into compendiums of nursery rhymes and children’s prayers is the “Four Corners” prayer. A common form of this prayer goes something like this:
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,
Bless the bed that I lie on. Four corners to my bed,
Four angels round my head;
One to watch and one to pray
And two to bear my soul away.
The rhyme dates back to at least the 1600s in Britain, and is likely much older. A German version dates to medieval times. The first English text is found in a treatise on witchcraft, where the verse is mentioned in a negative context.
There were several “paternosters” (derived from Latin for “our father”), which were associated with colors, perhaps initially associated with colored prayer beads. These poems are thought to be corruptions of prayers that became used as magic charms. The “white Paternoster” (a version of which is found in Chaucer’s Miller’s Tale of 1387) was used for morning. The “black paternoster” was used at bedtime. A “green paternoster” was earlier condemned as blasphemous by the Bishop of Lincolon, Robert Grosseteste, 1175–1253.
Somehow, the “black paternoster” escaped the anti-witchcraft and anti-catholic sentiments of the 17th century to become a favorite children’s rhyme in England, esp in the 20th century. Perhaps this may be credited to Anglican priest, scholar and hymn-writer, Sabine Baring-Gould, 1834-1924.