Vespers of All Hallows

The world has gone a long way in its parallel history for Christian celebrations. The Evil One has succeeded in producing thought-provoking “evidences” that make alternative histories delectable enough to send proponents of a Church-less faith-less religion-less society into an ideological orgasm. We then understand how appropriate it is for the Devil to appoint a secular feast for him and his minions. Schedule it on the day before the feast of the Church Triumphant no less! On Halloween! But Halloween is Catholic. It was, it is, and always will be. A refresher on its history, as well as its outstanding observances, is in order. Below, moreover, is the etymology.

CGSCOX - Halloween

The origin of the term is rather straightforward. Break down Halloween into hallow and e’en. Hallow descended from the Middle English halwe (saint), itself descended from the Old English hālga (saint). A related word in German is Heilige (saint). E’en, on the other hand, a contraction of even, descended from the Middle English even (evening), itself descended from the Old English ǣfen (evening). Its related word in German is Abend. It is evening and saints, evening and saints. No sprightly tricksters whatsoever.

And for us who serve in the choral office, it is even more compelling, for in Old English, ǣfen is linked not only to evening, but to the canonical hour of vespers. How is it that the Eve of All Hallows is observed on 31 October, not on 1 November itself? After all, 1 November still has an evening, right? Well, it is because feasts in Christendom always began with first vespers (ǣfen ǣrest in Old English). It was not until the Johannine reforms that the ancient reckoning of feasts beginning with first vespers was confined only to great and solemn feasts, and the vesperal celebration of lesser feasts shifted emphasis to the day itself.

Before we end, here are some more on vespers connection in Old English: the hour of vespers is ǣfentīd (vespertina hora in Latin); the time of vespers is ǣfentīma (vespertinum tempus in Latin); the office of vespers is ǣfengebēd or ǣfenþeо̄wdо̄m (both vespertinum officium in Latin); and the chant at vespers is ǣfendreām or ǣfenleо̄þ or ǣfensang (all vespertinus cantus in Latin). Though this will never catch on, calling Halloween the Vespers of All Hallows would be one way of asserting the Catholicity of a Catholic observance.

Ut omnibus, cunctis sanctis Dei intercedentibus pro nobis, laudetur Dominus.

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