TSD 30: All You Holy Men and Women

The Allhallowtide Triduum

We are finally clawing our way out of Ordinary Time/Time after Pentecost; as the season changes so does the liturgy, with a turn toward the eschatological this week. Soon it will be Martinmas, and then a whole new year begins.

Next weekend I will be helping with a retreat for men incarcerated at Pennsylvania’s state prison in Somerset. TSD will arrive in your inboxes while I am in jail, and with Halloween and everything else, it’ll probably be on the shorter side. Fair warning.

These Seven Days…

…in the Ordinary Form

It is the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time. The readings are Sirach 35:12-14, 16-18; 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18; and Luke 18:9-14—the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. We’ll focus on the first two readings here: You can find commentary on this Gospel selection, and a striking piece of art, in the Extraordinary Form section of TSD 20.

This week we see a clear focus on God’s justice, beginning in the very first words of the reading from Sirach:

The Lord is a God of justice, who knows no favorites. … The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds; it does not rest till it reaches its goal, nor will it withdraw till the Most High responds, judges justly and affirms the right, and the Lord will not delay.

And St. Paul speaks of the “just judge” who will reward his faithfulness:

From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge,
will award to me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance.

On this sentence, Robert Witham makes an apologetical interpretation:

These words confirm the Catholic doctrine, that good works performed with the assistance of God's grace, deserve and are meritorious of a reward in heaven: it is what is signified, 1. by a crown of justice, 2. from a just judge, 3. which he will render or give as a reward. Yet we own with St. Augustine that we have no merit, but what is also a gift of God from his grace and mercy, and grounded on his promises.

Now. You might notice a difference in language between Witham and the translation of 2 Timothy 4:8 above it: “a crown of righteousness” versus “a crown of justice.” It turns out that Haydock addresses just that: “‘A crown of justice,’ which the Protestants translate, of righteousness…” The theological distinction, as far as I can tell, is that “justice” refers more clearly to exterior actions—that is, good works.

The NAB strikes again!


…in the Extraordinary Form

It is the Feast of Christ the King, traditionally situated on the last Sunday in October. the Epistle is Colossians 1:12-20 and the Gospel is John 18:33-37, Christ’s testimony to Pilate when asked if He is King of the Jews.

Let me just present the magisterial introduction to this Mass in the St. Andrew Missal:

Instituting this feast, Pius XI pointed out in his encyclical letter of December 11, 1925, that people are instructed in the truths of faith far more effectively by the annual celebration of our sacred mysteries than by any pronouncement, however weighty, of the teaching of the Church. This feast will draw attention to the evils which laïcism [i.e. secularism, especially in civil affairs] has brought upon society. It sets the crowning glory upon the mysteries of the life of Christ already commemorated during the year; before celebrating the triumph of all the saints, we proclaim the glory of the King of all saints, in heaven, in purgatory and on earth.

I adore Pius XI’s wise understanding that liturgy teaches better even than eloquence. We can also see the traditional rationale for this placement of the feast: the Sunday before November 1, All Saints.

On Christ’s discourse with Pilate, Augustine writes:

He does not say, “My kingdom is not in this world”; but, “is not of this world.” Of the world are all men, who created by God are born of the corrupt race of Adam. All that are born again in Christ, are made a kingdom not of this world. Thus hath God taken us out of the power of darkness, and translated us to the kingdom of His dear Son.

And so it is clear that Christ’s words here are not meant to describe an entirely spiritual, ethereal Kingdom, but a heavenly Kingdom with an earthly manifestation in the Church and Her rightful powers and authority—all rooted in Christ, the King of Heaven and Earth.

The Last Judgment by Fra Angelico, c. 1425-1430, now displayed in Florence.


This feast also features a lovely Introit verse from Revelation 5:

Dignus est Agnus, qui occisus est, accipere virtutem, et divinitatem, et sapientiam, et fortitudinem, et honorem. Ipsi gloria et imperium in saecula saeculorum.

The Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive power and divinity and wisdom and strength and honor; to Him be glory and empire for ever and ever.


Thursday, October 31, is the Vigil of All Saints, or All Hallows’s Eve, or, well, you know. There is in the old rite a Mass for this day, dedicated to preparing for All Saints, which itself has an octave attached to it. Indeed the vigil dates to the ninth-century institution of the feast, preceding the octave by several centuries. The “epistle” comes from Revelation, and concludes with precisely the verse used for the Introit for Christ the King. So there is a really lovely thread that runs through this week of the sacrificed King, the royal Lamb, which captures the mysterious but beautiful heart of the Christian faith.

While it may have been captured by the ghouls of commercialism, October 31 is a Christian commemoration.


…in both forms of the Roman Rite

Monday, October 28 is the Feast of Ss. Simon and Jude, combining two of the lesser-known Apostles. Unfortunately, it finds itself in a busy week, so they’re going to get overlooked again. Here’s St. Jude looking appropriately peeved:

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Anthony van Dyck, c. 1620.


Friday, November 1, is the Solemnity of All Saints, a holy day of obligation. This feast can trace its origins to the early Church when the faithful would commemorate the anniversaries of martyrs’ deaths. Soon, of course, there were too many men and women to keep track of, and so days were set aside to remember groups of martyrs and, finally, all those martyrs who were not otherwise celebrated. The date of this commemoration was pegged by Pope Gregory III in the eighth century to November 1, in remembrance of the dedication of a chapel for saints’ relics in the old St. Peter’s Basilica. It was extended to the universal Church by Pope Gregory VII in 835.

The St. Andrew Missal adds another detail: In the early seventh century, Pope Boniface IV moved a great deal of relics into the Roman Pantheon, claiming it for Christ and His Church, and dedicating it to St. Mary and the Martyrs (later St. Mary and all the Saints). This event was commemorated on May 1, but after the institution of All Saints, the two feasts were merged. “The feast of All Saints therefore recalls the triumph of Christ over the false pagan deities.”

Also, yes, you can eat meat today.

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The Adoration of the Trinity, or the Landauer Altarpiece, by Albrecht Dürer. The image of God here is parodied in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.


Saturday, November 2, is the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed, or All Souls’ Day, set aside to pray for the souls in purgatory. The roots of the feast go back to the first Masses for the dead, as early as the fifth century. An organized commemoration of the dead on a single day has origins in sixth-century Benedictine practice, and it was another Benedictine, St. Odilo of Cluny, who established the November 2 date that has since been extended worldwide.

In the Extraordinary Form, all Masses said this day are to be requiem Masses. Thus, Masses on All Souls include the famous sequence, the Dies irae. Further, by a rule of Pope Benedict XV, priests may say up to three Masses on this day, multiplying the graces available to the souls in purgatory.

There is a plenary indulgence available on this day, under the usual conditions, to those who visit a cemetery and pray for the dead. Similarly, a plenary indulgence, applicable to the souls in purgatory, is granted for visiting a church or oratory and reciting the Our Father and the Creed.

I am in love with this painting, simply called All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder, 1888.


Tip Jar

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Tips go here


Those Seven Days

Need this for the door to my attic/office:


I think we’re all tired of “official optimism,” which is really a species of despair, and could use a little (hope-filled!) realism from the powers-that-be:


The Washington Post’s Elizabeth Bruenig on the surfeit of polyamory-normalizing “profiles” recently:


Every once in awhile—and it seems like more often recently—the imperial ambitions of employers toward all aspects of our lives is spoken of plainly:


And a little something from my own life, with a request for prayers:

Feedback, &c.

Did I miss something important? Get something wrong? Do you have ideas for how to improve These Seven Days? Drop me a line at tsd.brandonmcg@gmail.com. This is a work in progress, and your feedback will help to make it the best it can be.

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