Vigils Reading – All Saints

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Vigils Reading – All Saints

November 1, 2022

A Sermon by St. Aelred of Rievaulx 1

My brothers, if we are not qualified to speak of one of God’s saints and proclaim her glory, how qualified are we to give a sermon of all of the saints? It is all the more necessary that we bear ourselves in a way enabling us to come to share their glory. What then must we do? How can we attain these heights? Accordingly, brothers, let us listen to some wholesome advice. For whom should we be more ready to believe than someone who has already attained that glory? He certainly knows the way by which he went up. Let us listen then to one of the great friends of Jesus telling us: Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand that he may raise you up.

You know how today throughout the entire world everyone is praising God’s saints – the angels and archangels, the apostles, the martyrs, confessors, virgins. In their honor today in our holy Church there are canticles, hymns, torches and all the rest that goes with a feast. The canticles connote the everlasting celebration in which the saints live because of the inexpressible joy which is theirs in God. The hymns connote the inexpressible praise by which they are always praising God. So it is the Psalmist says: Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord; they will praise you through all ages. The torches connote the everlasting light in which God’s saints live. This is why this past night you sang: Around you, Lord, is a light that will never fail where the souls of the saints find rest. Now brothers, ponder, if you can, how exalted in heaven are those who can be exalted and honored in this way on earth. Surelky, brothers, if we could behold all the glory of the world and all the praise of the world and all the joy of the world at the same time, in comparison with their joy it is nothing but absolute misery.

Therefore, brothers, you ought to know that we celebrate these feasts with torches, canticles and so on for only two reasons. (These things do not profit God’s saints. They take no delight from this earthly singing, nor do they glory in this earthly torches and trifles. Their praise is Christ and he is their light, who enlightens every person coming into this world.)

The first reason for these things is that by these reminders we may rouse ourselves to greater devotion; then the second, because of the connotations of which we have already spoken. We ought, then, to do as much as is adequate to these two reasons. They do not celebrate these feasts well who by excessive pomp and ceremony pursue these external glories and splendors – with the result that the outer self becomes so intent on the canticles, the ornaments, the torches and such lovely trappings that the mind is scarcely able to conceive of anything but what it sees with the eyes, hears with the ears, or perceives with the other senses.

As for us, brothers, who do not see these things, let us ponder and delight in the true loveliness in which the saints live free of corruption; in those spiritual ornaments that the saints possess in righteousness and holiness: in the hymns and praises with which they praise God without weariness; and in that light which they see in the face of God. And let us keep our feasts in such a way that our mind is not turned back to those earthly and perishable delights but rather is roused to those that are spiritual and eternal. And so let us reflect on their glory and exaltation. To enable us to reach this exaltation, let us listen to the advice of the Apostle: Humble yourselves beneath the mighty hand of God. The Apostle was very aware of the reason why we are cast down, why we have lost that exaltation in which we were created, why we were driven out into this unhappiness. What is this reason, brothers, if not pride? Therefore, to counteract this pride he taught humility. Humble yourselves, he says. But because he knew that not all those who humble themselves humble themselves wisely, he therefore added: under the mighty hand of God. Now let us notice who they are who are humbled beneath the glorious hand of God. They are the good angels who, after the blessed Mary Mother of God, are the focus of this feast. They doubtless humble themselves beneath the glorious hand of God for they look for nothing from his hand but his glory in which they are happy without end, each one according to the rank in which they were created.  Therefore, brothers, let us humble ourselves beneath God’s mighty hand that he may lift us up at the time of his visitation. May he lift us up through good deeds and through holy desires, so that when he comes at that great visitation when he will demand from everyone an account of what they have done in this life, he may lift us up totally and we may hear that endearing voice saying: Come, you blessed of my Father. Receive the kingdom that has been prepared for you from the beginning of the world.

Aelred of Rievaulx – The Liturgical Sermons – Cistercian Fathers Series – #58 – Cistercian Publications – Kalamazoo – 2001 – pg 346


November 1, 2022
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