The word "hallows" means saints and "mas" simply means mass, for this is the Christian feast celebrated yesterday in honour of all the saints, known and unknown - a few of whom are shown above right, as painted by Fra Angelico - and which the Church has marked, in some way or other, since the fourth century AD.
Of course, the phrase known or unknown is one of those divine religious catch-alls, but whether they are known on earth or not they all have one thing in common: they are those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven -- or to put it more simply (maybe?) "the eternal, direct perception of God enjoyed by those who are in Heaven, imparting supreme happiness or blessedness", which, Thomas Aquinas said, was the ultimate end of human existence after physical death.
And what, you ask, of those who haven't aspired to such - if you'll pardon the pun - lofty heights? Well - there's another handy catch-all coming up - they have today: All Souls' Day, also known as the Feast of All Souls or Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (from the Latin Commemoratio omnium Fidelium Defunctorum), or, elsewhere in the world, as Día de los Difuntos or Día de los Muertos - The Day of the Dead...
The other week, in a shadowy corner of London's Southwark Cathedral, I encountered these momento mori: their all-but toothless jaws hungrily chomping upon the gilded wings of some hapless cherubs and the green leaves of forgotten youth...
I was reminded (with apologies to those who have been complaining about the recent references to death on this blog) of the words of Emily Dickinson...
All but Death, can be Adjusted—
Systems—settled in their Sockets—
Wastes of Lives—resown with Colors
By Succeeding Springs—
Is exempt from Change—
POST SCRIPT (10:05): The following comments on the above blog came by e-mail with illustrations and so couldn't be added in the usual way. Out of deference for those who've had enough of all this going on about DEATH (see comments below), I decided to add these contributions to this All Soul's Day post so as to GET IT OVER WITH!
First SACRA CANTERO MANCEBO mailed me as follows:
I thought, after reading your blog today, that perhaps you might not know these paintings by one of the most popular painters of the Spanish baroque (after Velazquez and Murillo) Juan Valdés Leal.Impressive, sombre stuff - though, I must say, I'm rather glad they've stopped decorating hospitals in this manner...
In the background of Sic Gloria Transit Mundi, you can see a pair of scales, with the words "ni más" "ni menos", which means: "nor more, nor less".
The other painting carries the words "In ictu oculi" ("In a blink of an eye") which, I think, needs no explanation...
These paintings are in Seville, and were painted for the Charity Hospital of the city around the 1670s and one was for the death of a bishop, or perhaps a cardinal, a very power vision to the people of XVII Century Spain.
Well, as you can see, I love art, specially the antique; that's one of the reasons that I very much enjoy your blog (only one of them). I thought that Emily Dickinson's poem finds a good explanation in these pictures.
And now, on a (very slightly) lighter note, CHRISTINE FITZGERALD wrote:
Speaking of momento mori... I did this several years ago for Dia de los Muertos. The image started with a photo of an old New England tombstone - thank god for Photoshop!
The Hispanic community isn't thrilled with the American expropriation of their holiday, but
I have sent out cards for several years without major objections. This was one of them.
Casper LeBlanc lived to be 17.