Reflection for All Souls Day

On the first of November we celebrate the feast of All Saints and we remember with joy and gratitude all those who have gone before us and who are now enjoying eternal happiness face to face with God. On the second of November, we are celebrating All Souls’ Day, also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, i.e. those who die with God’s grace and friendship. This is based on the Catholic theology that some of those who have departed from this world have not been per-fectly cleansed from venial sin, or have not fully atoned for their past transgression. Being temporarily deprived of the beatified vision until such time as they have been completely sanctified in Christ, these departed souls are to remain in Purgatory, a state of purification. To assist them in this process to be freed from Purgatory, we, their spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ, pray that they may receive the reward of the saints. The Church teaches us that, when we die, most of us are in need of some process of purification.

The Catholic teaching on Purgatory essentially seen in our belief in two realities: First, that there will be a purification of believers prior to entering heaven and Second that the prayers and masses of the faithful are sure to benefit those in the state of purification. The prayers and Masses of the faithful do have an impact on the purification that the faithful are undergoing in Purgatory.

The Church prays for, and remembers, the faithful departed throughout the entire year. However, All Souls Day is the general, solemn day of commemoration, when the Church remembers, prays for and offers requiem masses for the faithful de-parted, now in their state of purification. Typically Christians will reserve this day to offer prayers on behalf of their departed relatives and friends. Tradition tells us that Christians have always been praying for their departed brothers and sisters to re-main in communion with them.

In the early days, departed Christians’ names were written on special parchments to remind people to pray for them. In the sixth century, Benedictine communities held commemorations for the departed on the feast of Pentecost. All Souls’ Day became a universal festival largely on account of the influence of Odilo of Cluny in AD 998, when he commanded its annual cele-bration in the Benedictine houses of his congregation. The day was celebrated on different days, including October 15th in the 12th century. Today all Western Catholics celebrate All Souls’ Day on November 2, as do many Anglicans and Lutherans.

On All Souls’ Day, we remember and pray for our dear departed members. Death is painful and can awaken feelings that are powerful, changing and compelling. The experience of death can be painful, enveloping the person to imagine the after life, the longing to be with the divine and to enter into a new experience. On this day we are faced with the mystery of death and we are reminded of the promise of resurrection and eternal life and therefore we ask God for mercy on those who have died and for an ever deeper and abiding awareness of the steadfast love of God expressed through Jesus Christ.

There are many customs associated with All Souls Day, and these vary greatly from culture to culture. Visiting the graves of the beloved persons, eating certain special food and decorating graves with flowers are well-practised custom. All of these customs show the wide variety of traditions related to All Souls Day.

On this day the Church is asking of us to pray in a very special way for all the deceased, for all those whom we knew, but also for all those who have died without their going away ever being communicated to us. We pray for an ever deeper and abiding awareness of the steadfast love of God expressed through Jesus Christ. God’s love made known in Jesus Christ is the reason for our hope. Today is a day of solidarity between all Christians. It is a celebration of what we call the “Communion of Saints”, where ‘saints’ signifies all persons baptised in Christ. Our love and sense of duty do not permit us to ignore them. They are all our people some of whom are intimately known to us. They call out to our help and one day we too will need help from others. On this day and all the days, we remember to pray to God, our creator and redeemer, and Jesus Christ His Son who con-quered death and returned to glory, that people who have gone before us in faith may share his victory and enjoy the vision of God’s glory for ever.”

Fr. Jacob P. Alvares, SAC

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