Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls

In some traditions, today is celebrated as All Souls Day, the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, or the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Prayers are offered in remembrance of those who have died.  While it is a separate occasion from All Saints' Day, the two days' proximity on the calendar has blurred their differences in the minds of many.  It's usually the celebration of All Saints that is transferred to the Sunday before or after.

My own church has an annual weekday service for All Souls, where a small choir sings portions of the plainsong chant service Missa pro defunctis and the names of the departed loved ones of the congregation are read.  This hymn is also usually a part of the service.

Jesus, Son of Mary, Fount of life alone, 
Here we hail thee present on thine altar throne. 
Humbly we adore thee, Lord of endless might, 
In the mystic symbols veiled from earthly sight. 

Think, dear Christ, in mercy on the souls of those
Who, in faith gone from us, now in death repose.
Here ’mid stress and conflict toils can never cease;
There, the warfare ended, bid them rest in peace.
Rest eternal grant unto them, after weary fight;
Shed on them the radiance of thy heavenly light.
Lead them onward, upward, to the holy place,
Where thy saints made perfect gaze upon thy face. 

Edmund S. Palmer, 1906; alt. 
Plainsong Mode V, 13th cent.

Anglican priest Edmund Stuart Palmer was for several years a missionary in Zanzibar.  He originally wrote this text in Swahili (Yesu, Bin Mariamu) and it was published in a hymnal for the Diocese of Zamzibar.  After returning to England, he translated it into English.

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