Saturday, November 3, 2007
All Souls' Day -- November 2
All Saints' Day is a big Holy Day in the Church calendar, and I thoroughly enjoyed the service on Thursday night at Victoria Chapel with Father Acker and a few parishoners from Blessed Trinity. It was a beautiful service, with lots of candles, beautiful icons, and a nice sermon on the "fellowship of the saints" and "having such a great cloud of witnesses." There is such joy to be had in realizing how we do not walk this Christian life in isolation but rather with fellow sojourners, past, present, and future. Such a worshipful time we had together!
This morning B and I joined Father Acker, his wife Alice, and another parishoner for the All Souls' Day service. B did acolyte duties which were a bit strange to him as we were in the Ackers' dining room rather than in the chapel. For Morning Prayer, we prayed two Psalms from the "Burial of the Dead" service, Psalms 39 and 90. We did not pray the "Gloria Patri" as usual throughout the Prayer service, but in its place, Father said:
Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord.
And we responded:
And let light perpetual shine upon them.
We didn't pray the Venite as usual, either (portions of Psalms 95 and 96). Between Morning Prayer and the Requiem Mass for All Souls, Father explained a little about All Souls Day to B. (As he's only seven, I'm sure that some (most?) went right over his head.) Father explained about the black vestments (which I had only seen on Good Friday before) and the way we miss those who have died and are with God in heaven, etc., etc. Father also had prepared special booklets for Requiem Mass which was quite different from the usual Holy Communion service for the Liturgy of the Word (first half). We had different readings than usual, different Collects, different responses, different Scriptures. I read from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the eighth chapter, starting at the fourteenth verse (Romans 8:14-19, 28, 31-32, 34-35, 37-39). Father read the Holy Gospel which was written in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel accroding to St. John, starting in the first verse (John 14:1-6).
The Communion portion of the service was pretty much the same as always. B had the opportunity to ring the "big bells" that are used for the Sunday services which was quite a treat for him. The only things that was slightly different was the Prayer of Thanksgiving that immediately follows the reception of Communion; it was focused much more upon the death of God's saints; I think it was also taken from the Burial of the Dead service, but I'm not positive since we were praying from a prepared booklet rather than the Prayer book as is the usual custom. It was an extremely solemn service yet beautiful in its own way.
Again, this thing about praying for the dead is my only serious sticking point with Anglicanism. They don't believe in Purgatory as the Catholics do; if Purgatory was an Anglican belief, then I would completely understand praying for the dead. But if the dead are already in heaven and can now see through a glass clearly, why do they need our prayers? They're already in the presence of God if they are believers in Christ, right? And if they weren't believers, isn't it too late for them (and us) to do anything about it? I can absolutely understand asking the saints in heaven to pray for us; they're in heaven in the presence of Christ and therefore are alive and can intercede for us. But praying FOR them once they've passed away? I just don't get it, and it's one of the only things I just don't understand in Anglican theology. The Beadle explained it to me via e-mail quite a while ago, but I still didn't understand. He even posted my questions and his answers in the weekly "Beadle's Report" that Alpine Anglican sends out to describe the Sunday service (contains the Collects and Scripture passages for each Sunday, plus a summarization of the sermon as well as the church-wide prayer list and any other needs, issues, etc. that are of interest to the church and also to the homebound who cannot attend).
Anyway, today was my first All Souls' Day service as it happened to land on Friday, our usual chapel day. It was interesting and beautiful, but still somewhat of a mystery to me.