The Feast of All Saints

Part I

"And they sang the canticle of Moses, the servant of God."--Apoc. xv. 

If on today's festival we think of the communion of the Saints in heaven, we will undoubtedly exclaim within our soul: "Oh, what a joy, what an ecstasy of delight will there be in heaven on this glorious feast!"

And what is it that incites the hearts of our brethren in heaven to such holy rejoicings? Ah, it is the remembrance of their victory--the victory which, while on earth, they gained over Satan, the world, and their own evil inclinations! They lived for heaven, fought for heaven, and gained heaven. Their joy, then, is a victor's joy, the greatest and sincerest of all the delights which can be tasted by the heart of man.

To show that in truth, on this day, an unbounded joy reigns in heaven, we need but remind you of the description which the seer St. John, in the island of Patmos, gives us of the city of God. "And I heard them," he says, "singing the canticle of Moses, the servant of God." It was the re-echo of that canticle which the children of Israel entoned on the shores of the Red Sea after God had destroyed Pharaoh, with all his warriors.

By saying that the Blessed sang the canticle of Moses, St. John wants to represent to us the indescribable sweetness and grandeur of the canticle of Victory which the Blessed in heaven chant before the throne of the Almighty.

I want to explain today to you the meaning of this Canticle of Moses sung in Heaven.

O Mary, Queen of Saints, lead us to victory in our battle on earth, that we may entone once the joyful songs of Saints and Angels with thee in Heaven! I speak in the most holy name of Jesus, for the greater glory of God!

The joy that fills the hearts of victorious warriors is proportioned not only to the number and power of the conquered, but also to the previous danger of defeat, to the misery and wretchedness that would have resulted from the enemy's victory, and, finally, to the positive good following its overthrow.

Now, in the case of the victorious Israelites, all these motives of joy were united in a higher degree than in any earthly victors before them; and yet the joyful songs of Israel can not even be compared with the heavenly hymns in which Saints and Angels give honor and praise and thanks to God for their good fight and their glorious victory.

In the first place, the mighty number and dreadful power of the conquered enemy, as well as the victor's narrow escape from defeat, increase and intensify the joy of a victorious army. How great, then, must have been the joy of the Israelites!

It was a dark night; the Egyptians had urged the Israelites to leave in haste. The latter had hurried away without even thinking of war and battle. Suddenly they see an approaching cloud of dust. Pharaoh, with his mighty army--horse, foot, and chariot--is at their heels. The Israelites have no arms; the cries of their wives and children urge them to try their utmost to seek safety in flight. But even this is in vain, for before them they see nothing but an immense expanse of water.

But now Moses says to the people: "Fear not; stand and see the great wonders of the Lord which He will do this day; for the Egyptians whom you see now, you shall see no more forever."

He then stretches out his hand--the waters of the Red Sea are divided, a warm wind dries the bottom, and the Israelites pass through, followed by Pharaoh with hundreds of thousands of armed warriors. But the eye of the Lord watches and looks down on them from above. The horses of the Egyptians are frightened, the wheels fall from the chariots, the waters sweep down in floods over the heads of the sons of Egypt, and, to a man, they are swallowed up in the depths of the sea.

At dawn the bodies of the drowned Egyptians float on the waters, and Israel, with its six hundred thousand men and many hundred thousand women, raises its voice and sings before the Lord a song of thanks and praise.

But, however great the praises and thanks of a nation saved from immediate destruction may have been, they are like sounding brass when compared with the hymns of victory which the Saints entone in the house of their heavenly Father. For each and every saved soul has had to fight against all the powers of hell, against numberless fallen angels and their associates, the world and the flesh. But now all enemies are crushed, and peace reigns eternally.

Besides, we must consider the great dangers that threatened the Saints while alive. "Sister," said a blessed soul, in an apparition, to a friend of hers--"Sister, I am saved. But it is only now that I understand the dangers of life. At times, in certain temptations and occasions of sin, I had hair-breadth escapes from hell. If the Lord in His endless mercy had not stretched out His saving hand to me then, I should now be buried in the eternal flames. But now, no more enemies, no more dangers; my soul sings eternal praises to the Lord."

From Pharaoh and the Egyptians, indeed, the children of Israel had nothing more to fear. But were they equally sure that no other hostile powers would oppose their way to the land of promise?

No care of this sort overshadows the happiness of the Saints. All is secure for them, and they are free forever from dangers and enemies.

The joy of victory increases if the victory sets the victors free from the miseries and wretchedness of a painful life. Think of a people of slaves that fights for liberty from tyranny and despotism, and you have a picture of the situation of the Israelites. Up to that time they had served as slaves in labor and hardship, and what would not have been their lot had they been brought back to Egypt not merely as slaves, but also as enemies and prisoners of war!

Victory dispelled all these anxieties. "The Lord is a warrior. Almighty is His name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army He hath cast into the sea; his chosen captains are drowned in the Red Sea. Who is like to Thee among the strong, O Lord? who is like to Thee, glorious in holiness, terrible and praiseworthy, doing wonders?"

Joyous though this canticle of Israel be, it can not compare with the strains of the Blessed: "The former things are passed away; God has wiped away all tears from the eyes of His servants; and death is now no more, nor mourning, nor weeping, nor sorrow is any more." 

The bonds of Egypt indeed have been broken, but new troubles, new anxieties arise for the children of Israel. They have before them a long journey through the desert; and even when this journey is happily completed, they will live only in another part of the same earth that has been cursed by its own Maker: "Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." The Saints, on the contrary, have entered a land where there is not a shadow of pain nor any fear of hardship.

Another source of joy in victory is the positive good we have gained. What is not our joy when we acquire some temporal good, new possessions, fresh honors, or influence over new nations! Such was the joy of the Israelites. Freed from the bonds of Egypt, they were to enter the land of promise, the land flowing with milk and honey. But however rich Chanaan may have been, it still was, like the rest of the earth, a valley of tears. Its mightiest king, while enjoying more riches, honors, and pleasures than any mortal before or after, cried out from the depths of his burdened heart: "Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity."

How different are the joys of the Blessed in Heaven! They enjoy riches and pleasures of which the Apostle says: "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive what things God hath prepared for them that love him." Heaven is the Society of Saints and Angels, of Jesus and Mary. God Himself says: "At the fountain of waters I will give them drink, and I will be their God, and they shall be My sons."

Heaven, then, is God Himself. The Saints see God face to face, they possess God, they become like unto God in the light of glory, and in peace and love they remain glorified with God forever. How can we, then, suppose this joy to be equaled by the joy of the children of Israel? For even supposing the Israelites should have found a perfect earthly happiness in their promised land, they still had the graves of Adam and Eve and of all the Patriarchs, reminding them that soon they, too, should rest in the grave and molder into the dust from which they had been framed. But the bliss of the Saints lasts eternally, and their joyful Alleluias resound forever.

And even considering their respective numbers, the joys and songs of the Israelites remain far behind the jubilation of the Saints. The Israelites amounted to six hundred thousand men, with a number of women and children in proportion. The number of the Blessed is indicated by St. John: "After this I saw a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne, and in sight of the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands; and they cried with a loud voice, saying: Salvation to our God, Who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb."

And, besides all this, if we consider the immense joys of the Blessed, that result from the continual increase of their number by the arrival of souls from the Church suffering, who does not feel the intense struggling for utterance!

Oh, that I, too, were among the number of the Blessed! that I were at least certain of my eternal happiness! But we are certain of our eternal salvation if we only follow the example of the Saints; if we avoid sin; if we are faithful in our daily duties. On these conditions we too, even, perhaps before the next Feast of All Saints, shall unite our voices with those of the Blessed; we too, crowned by our Lord Jesus Christ, shall triumph among the bands of the Saints and Angels.

The Israelites went forth out of Egypt. They killed a Paschal lamb, with the blood of which they signed their doors; they stood and ate hastily, with shoes on their feet and staves in their hands. On their journey they followed a cloud of fire, and were nourished with manna.

Now, each of these circumstances is symbolical. If we wish to attain the joys of Heaven we must wash ourselves in the blood of the Lamb; we must leave the fleshpots of Egypt--that is, the world, with its pleasures; we must stand upright--that is, our hearts must be free from earthly desires; we must gird ourselves with the spirit of self-denial. Continual thought of approaching Eternity must be the staff to guard us through life. The light of faith is our cloud of fire. Occasions and temptations to sin must be passed through by us as the Red Sea was by the Israelites. On our way through life we must nourish ourselves not with earthly manna, indeed, but with the heavenly--I mean the Eucharist.

Let us be ready; we are warned, and soon we shall take part in the triumph of All Saints, singing with them the canticle of Moses amid the Alleluias of all heavenly hosts.--Amen!

The Feast of All Saints Continued

Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O'Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.
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