Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
All Souls’ Day
Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, eternal rest to the souls of the departed; and may the thought of death spur me on to greater generosity.
“Holy Church, our good Mother, after having exalted with fitting praise all her children who now rejoice in heaven, strives also to help all those who still suffer in purgatory, and to this end intercedes with all her power before Christ, her Lord and Spouse, in order that as speedily as possible they may join the society of the elect in heaven.” These are the words of the Roman Martyrology.
Yesterday we contemplated the glory of the Church triumphant and implored her intercession. Today we consider the expiatory pains of the Church suffering and solicit for these souls the divine assistance: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.” This is the dogma of the Communion of Saints put into practice. The Church triumphant intercedes for us, the Church militant; and we, in our turn, hasten to the help of the Church suffering. Death has taken from us those we love; yet, there can be no real separation from those who have died in the kiss of the Lord. The bond of charity continues to unite us, enfolding in one embrace earth, heaven, and purgatory, so that there circulates from one region to another the fraternal assistance which springs from love, which has as its end the triumph of love in the common glory of Paradise.
The liturgy of the day is pervaded with sadness, but it is not the grief of those “who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:12), for it is resplendent with faith in a blessed resurrection, in the eternal felicity which awaits us. The passages chosen for the Gospels of the three Masses for the faithful departed speak to us explicitly of all these consoling truths, and in a most authoritative way, since they repeat to us the very words of Jesus: “This is the will of the Father who sent Me; that of all that He hath given Me, I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again in the last day” (Gospel for the 2nd Mass: John 6:37-40). Could there be a more consoling assurance?
Jesus presents Himself to us today as the Good Shepherd who does not want to lose even one of His sheep, nor does He spare any pains to lead them all to salvation. As if in response to the sweet promises of Jesus, Holy Mother Church, full of gratitude and enthusiasm, cries out: “For with regard to Thy faithful, O Lord, life is changed, not taken away; and the abode of this earthly sojourn being dissolved, an eternal dwelling is prepared in heaven” (Preface). Rather than an inexorable end, death is, for the Christian, a door opening into eternity, a door which admits the soul into eternal life.
“Grant, O Lord, that I may experience a reasonable sorrow at the death of those who are dear to me, shedding tears of resignation over our mortal condition, yet soon restraining them by this consoling thought of the faith: that in dying, the faithful have only withdrawn a little from us to go into a better world.
“May I not weep as do the pagans who are without hope. I may have reason to be sad, but in my affliction hope will comfort me. With hope so great, it is not fitting, O my God, that Your temple should be in mourning. You dwell there, You who are our Consoler; and You cannot fail in Your promises” (St. Augustine).
“O Master and Creator of the universe, Lord of life and death, You give our souls being and fill them with blessings: You carry out and transform everything by the work of Your Word, at the time foreordained and according to the plan of Your Wisdom; receive, today, our deceased brethren and give them eternal rest.
“May You welcome us, in our turn, at the moment pleasing to You, after having guided us and left us in the body for as long as You think useful and salutary.
“Made ready in Your fear, without trouble, and without delay, may You receive us on the last day. Grant that we may not leave the things of this world with regret, like those who are too much attached to earth and the flesh; grant that we may advance resolutely and happily toward that blessed and unending life which is in Christ Jesus Our Lord, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen” (St. Gregory Nazianzen).
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Art photography for this post on the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed – All Souls’ Day: All Saints Day 2010 at Skogskyrkogarden in Stockholm, photographed by Hoger Motzkau, 6 November 2010 own work, CCA-SA 3.0 Unported, Wikimedia Commons. Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, mirror from open source material.