Tuesday, November 2, 2021

All Souls. . .

Although All Souls was traditionally associated with the souls in purgatory, it did not stop All Souls' Day from being widely observed in Saxony, albeit that the Roman Catholic meaning of the day was discarded.  Eventually some of the observances once associated with All Souls were transferred to another day or merged with All Saints.  In 1816, Prussia introduced a new date for the remembrance of the Dead among its Lutheran citizens: Totensonntag, the last Sunday before Advent. This custom became more prevalent among the non-Prussian Lutherans in Germany but did not spread much beyond the Evangelical areas of Germany.

Along the way the most common distinction between the two days became All Saints for the Saints with a capital "S" and All Souls for the saints with a small "s."   The big names we all know was for All Saints and the family and friends along with the anonymous who have died in Christ and are known only to God are reserved for All Souls.  I am not at all sure it was a helpful contrast.  While it worked when it was believed the saints with extra virtue and merits could provide a treasury from which the needy could draw, this does not quite make sense in a Lutheran context now does it?  But it just might make more sense from a pastoral context.  We often fear that those whom we love who die in the Lord are not quite up to par with the mighty saints of old or even that our loved ones have gotten lost in the great chorus of giants of the faith.  Perhaps it would be good to resurrect the distinction.  Sometimes the more I think about it the better it might be to start this up again even though it is wise for us to remember that the baptized are the faithful, the saints of the Lord, whom He has clothed with His righteousness to stand before Him in holiness and purity forever.

In any case, I rather like the All Souls' Day remembrance of the faithful departed.  I was reading the other day from Wilhelm Loehe's Seed Grains of Prayer, in which he gathered prayers from the great Lutheran devotional tradition (prayer 341):

I would remember before Thee also my parents, pastors, teachers, children, kindred and benefactors, who have gone before me in the blessed faith and are now at home with Thee. If, through Jesus Christ, my prayer finds favor in Thy sight, do Thou, in my stead, repay unto them my thanks and love, in whatever manner it be possible. 

Unto all whom I have ever pained, deceived, or caused to sin, or whom I have robbed of honor, health, or possessions, whom I can no longer ask for pardon, nor restore unto them, because they already are gone into joy and pardon of every sin—gone home to Thee—to all these, O Lord, grant good for all my evil, both now and in the day of the resurrection of the just; even as Thou knowest how, and in how far all this which I ask can be granted. 

As for myself, let me spend my remaining days in prayer, in adoration of the most holy name of Jesus, and in praise and thanksgiving for the hearing of my prayers and those of all Christian people which have ever been offered up unto Thee through Jesus Christ. Amen.

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