Monday, October 31, 2016

LOST FEASTS: October 31 - Commemoration of the Holy Relics

One of the great tragedies of the 20th century liturgical changes was the "Romanization" of the Dominican calendar that occurred in the revision of 1960, and which is codified in the calendar of the 1962 Breviarium iuxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum.  Many wonderful Dominican feasts were removed from the liturgical calendar of the Order, including those of many Dominican blessed's and many other feasts that were particular to the Dominican Order.  One such feast was the Feast of the Holy Relics.

As noted in the Martyrology of the Sacred Order of Friars Preachers (Bonniwell, 1955), this feast was a commemoration of "holy martyrs and of the other saints, whose bodies or relics are preserved in our churches."  In the 1909 Breviarium iuxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum  the feast is celebrated on October 30, however in the 1924 Breviarium S.O.P. it appears on  October 31, the Vigil of All Saints Day, and remained there until it was removed in 1960.  The feast  had the rank of a totum duplex feast, which in 1962 would have been considered a 1st Class Feast.   For the Office, everything was taken from the Common of Many Martyrs, except the Collect (see below), and lessons 4, 5, and 6 at Matins, which were taken from a tract by St. John Damascene's "De Fide Orthodoxa" .  A commemoration of St. Quintinus was also made.  Interestingly, this feast superseded the Vigil of All Saints at Matins, as noted in the 1924 Breviarium S.O.P., which states "De Vigilia Sanctorum in Officio nihil fit" at the end of the Office.

Relics of St. Thomas Aquinas at the Church of the Jacobins,
Toulouse, France.
From "Liturgical Meditations for the Entire Year" by the Sisters of St. Dominic, Adrian, MI (B. Herder, 1960):

These are the saints…who constantly assist before the throne of God.
God is wonderful in His saints.
(from Lauds, Dominican Breviary)

Our Holy Order has set aside this day of special honor the saints whose relics are preserved in our churches.  Many of these saints are our own Dominican brothers and sisters; all of them are members of Christ who used their bodily faculties for the glory of God in the service of His holy Church.

We honor the relics of the saints because their bodies are, in a sense, the body of Christ.  In each of them the Son of God has been mystically incarnate; in every one of them He has prayed and labored and suffered in accordance with the Father’s will.  How precious is our participation in His work and in His passion!  How grateful we should be that He has deigned to share with us the pain and burden of His redemptive love.  “You are the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27)

The relics of the saints are honored because their souls enjoy the beatific vision, and the bodies once animated by these blessed souls are still in somewise associated with them.  Since human personality requires the union of body and soul, the citizens of heaven will one day regain the physical faculties with which they honored God and served their fellow men.

How truly worth of our reverence are the bodies of our heavenly brothers and sisters!  With their faculties of sight and speech and hearing, by their capacity for weariness and pain, they have done the work of Christ and shared the burden of His cross.  May it be joy for us to pay the price of suffering and exhaustion for the cause of God.  In eternal light our souls and bodies will exult in the sacrifice God asks of us today. ”My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God” (Ps 83:3)

In the office for today’s feast, St. John Damascene tells us that the bodies of the saints should not be called dead in the sense of useless or inactive because their relics are the means whereby God confers countless blessings upon us.  In honoring the holy relics we are professing our faith in the resurrection of Christ and our hope that we may one day rise to eternal glory.

As we look forward joyfully t the feast of All Saints, we lift our eyes to that home where we hope to spend eternity united to one another in God.  How often do we travel heavenward in mind and heart?  Perhaps we sometimes sorry over temporal loss and separation as if we had no assurance of eternal joy.  In attaining God we shall possess all things, and were we to achieve all else without Him, we would have nothing.  He is Himself our one reward, exceeding great.  “What have I in heaven? And besides The wat do I desire upon earth?” (Ps. 72:25).


O God, who willed to adorn this church with the relics of so many saints; grant that we Your servants may enjoy in heaven the fellowship of those whose memory we venerate on earth:  Through our Lord...