On All Hallows Eve

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Ephesians 5:21–23
Psalm 127:1–2, 3, 4–5 (R. cf. 1a)
Luke 13:18–21

All Hallows Eve

Today is All Hallows Eve: this evening at First Vespers we will cross the threshold into the festival of Angels and Archangels; Thrones and Dominions; Principalities and Powers and heavenly Virtues; Cherubim and Seraphim; Patriarchs and Prophets and Holy Doctors of the Law; Apostles and Martyrs of Christ; Confessors and Virgins of the Lord; blessed Hermits and all other Saints of God.

The Liturgical Preview of Heaven

Do you remember the Angel who spoke to Saint John on Patmos, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the spouse of the Lamb” (Ap 21:9)? In the Spirit he carried the Apostle away to a great, high mountain, and showed him “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal (cf. Ap 21:10–11). This is exactly what the liturgy of All Saints Day will do for us in a mystical way, that is, by means of sacramental signs. All Saints Day is the liturgical preview of heaven.

Festival of the Bride of Christ

All Hallows is the festival of the Bride of Christ. Saint Paul describes the sacrificial love of the Bridegroom Christ for His Bride, the Church: “He loved her and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present the Church to Himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25–27).

The Secret of the Saints

What was the secret of the saints? They believed in the love of the Bridegroom Christ and gave themselves up to Him who gave Himself up for them. While the manifestations of holiness are many, the way of holiness is one and the same for all. The saints are those who, having believed in the love of God revealed in Christ, said “Yes” to that love and surrendered to it as the bride surrenders to the love of the bridegroom. Many years ago a certain spiritual mother taught me to pray as she prayed, saying, “Lord, I surrender myself to the power of your fruitful love.” Therein lies the secret of holiness.

Surrendering to Love

What is it that prevents us from surrendering to love? In nearly every case, it is one of two things. Either one does not believe in the love of God for oneself or, believing it intellectually, out of fear, one refuses to surrender to it from the heart. The remedy to both impediments is perseverance in the humble prayer of supplication. Just as the father of the epileptic child prayed his magnificent prayer, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24), one must learn to say, “Lord, I surrender to the power of thy love for me, help thou my lack of surrender.”

The Last Day of October, Month of the Rosary

No prayer helps one to grow in faith as surely as the Rosary does. There is no prayer that exorcises fear as well as the Rosary. There is no prayer that helps one to grow in self–surrender to the love of God as effectively the Rosary. This being the last day of the October, the month of the Holy Rosary, I consider myself bound to preach the Rosary again, and I do it in Our Lady’s sweet name. I promised the Blessed Virgin at the beginning of October that I would try either to write something or to preach on the Rosary every day of the month. Today’s Gospel gives me a splendid opportunity to do just that.

An Initiation into the Mysteries of the Kingdom

The Rosary is a path into the Kingdom of God. It opens the gates of the Kingdom to the little, the childlike, and the poor. It is an initiation into the mysteries of the Kingdom, those mysteries that Our Lord Himself declares, “hidden from the learned and the clever and revealed to babes” (cf. Lk 10:21).

Like the Grain of Mustard Seed

The Rosary is very much like that grain of mustard seed “which a man took and planted in his garden; and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches” (Lk 13:19). By that I mean that the effect of the Rosary is entirely disproportionate to its simplicity. Each Ave is like a grain of mustard seed sown in the garden of the soul; little in itself, it produces abundant fruits.

Fruits of the Rosary

The fruits of the Rosary are the fruits of the Holy Spirit enumerated for us in the Catechism: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self–control, and chastity. Where the Holy Mother of God is, there too is the Holy Spirit. One who, praying the Rosary, over and over again repeats Ave, Maria is, by the repetition of that greeting, imploring the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, the source of all fecundity. One who perseveres in praying the Rosary will rejoice in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married” (Is 62:4).

Like Leaven

Again, the Rosary is like “leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was leavened” (Lk 13:21). The Rosary is the leaven of holiness hidden in ordinary life. I have been particularly attentive over the past few months to the great number of saints for whom the Rosary was a kind of ceaseless prayer of the heart; the companion of their days and of their nights, of their sorrows and of their joys; their habitual recourse in sickness, contradiction, and darkness.

The Example of the Saints

I am amazed at the number of people — people fully engaged in busy, productive lives — who pray the twenty mysteries of the Rosary every day. Whenever I am tempted to make excuses for myself, I think of the example of Blessed John XXIII who never failed to pray the entire Rosary each day. I am certainly no busier than he was, and I doubt that any of you are. I think too of the Servant of God, Pope John Paul II who prayed the entire Rosary daily, almost unceasingly. So too did Saint Padre Pio. So too did Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. For me, the most touching example of all is that of little Blessed Francisco of Fatima of whom Our Lady said that he would go to heaven, but that first he would have to pray “many rosaries.” If the Blessed Virgin said this of a nine year old shepherd boy, what then of us? The example of the saints demolishes all our alibis.

Make It a Habit

It may be a simple as resolving not to turn on the radio in the car while driving so as to use the time for praying the Rosary. It may be a question of mortifying one’s curiosity by not poring over the newspapers so as to have more time to pore over the Joyful Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. It may be a question of not turning on the television or of reserving a moment in the afternoon to spend it quietly in the company of the Blessed Virgin. It all comes down to a question of habit. Habits are formed by the repetition of the same action. Virtues are simply good habits. The repetition of good actions — such as praying the Rosary — becomes a habit rather quickly. Psychologists say that it takes an average of six weeks to consolidate a habit.

Life: An All Hallows Eve

Yes, the month of the Rosary ends today, but your devotion to the Rosary must continue stronger than it ever was before. Persevere in the Rosary and you will find yourself believing in the love of God. Persevere in the Rosary and will find yourself saying a “Yes” from the heart together with the Blessed Virgin Mary. Persevere in that “Yes” to the transforming power of Love and you will find yourself one day in the company of All Saints. What after all, is this short earthly life of ours, if not a passing All Hallows Eve?


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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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