But we would not have you ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep,” (1 Thess 4:13-14).
All Saints, All Souls - the thin times of the year, especially for those of a Celtic inheritance it is easy to feel that our pagan ancestors were right when they marked the changing of the seasons at this time.
As the clocks change and the evenings draw in, we head into Samhain (November) and the dark days of Winter here in Ireland. As the earth heads into hibernation and rebirth, the ancient Celts saw this time as a "thin place" between this world and the next. The Triduum of the Dead - (All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Saints and All Souls) is a reminder to us that our nearest and dearest who have died are not really that far away and that we honour and pray for and with each other in the Communion of Saints especially at this time of the year.
"For centuries the church has confronted the human community with role models of greatness. We call them saints when what we really often mean to say is 'icon,' 'star,' 'hero,' ones so possessed by an internal vision of divine goodness that they give us a glimpse of the face of God in the center of the human. They give us a taste of the possibilities of greatness in ourselves." — Joan D. Chittister in A Passion for Life
From ancient times, Christians have had the tradition of praying for the dead. Today, we lift up our hearts and prayers to those who have gone before us. In the Mystical Body of Christ, we are united with them and pray for their eternal souls. As well as our dearly departed, we are encouraged to pray for others, perhaps especially those who died as victims of injustice, war and hunger. In praying for the dead, we are reminded of the joys of eternal life, which through Christ Jesus, is made accessible to all of us.
The importance of All Souls Day was made clear by Pope Benedict XV (1914-22), when he granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one, for the faithful departed; one for the priest's intentions; and one for the intentions of the Holy Father. Only on a handful of other very important feast days are priests allowed to celebrate more than two Masses. While All Souls Day is now paired with All Saints Day, which celebrates all of the faithful who are in Heaven, it originally was celebrated in the Easter season, around Pentecost Sunday (and still is in the Eastern Catholic Churches). By the tenth century, the celebration had been moved to October; and sometime between 998 and 1030, St. Odilo of Cluny decreed that it should be celebrated on November 2 in all of the monasteries of his Benedictine congregation. Over the next two centuries, other Benedictines and the Carthusians began to celebrate it in their monasteries as well, and soon it spread to the entire Church.
On All Souls Day, we not only remember the dead, but we apply our efforts, through prayer, almsgiving, and the Mass, to their release from Purgatory. There are two plenary indulgences attached to All Souls Day, one for visiting a church and another for visiting a cemetery. (The plenary indulgence for visiting a cemetery can also be obtained every day from November 1-8, and, as a partial indulgence, on any day of the year.) While the actions are performed by the living, the merits of the indulgences are applicable only to the souls in Purgatory.
Praying for the dead is a Christian obligation. In the modern world, when many have come to doubt the Church's teaching on Purgatory, the need for such prayers has only increased. The Church devotes the month of November to prayer for the Holy Souls in Purgatory, and participation in the Mass of All Souls Day is a good way to begin the month.
“We must not make purgatory into a flaming concentration camp on the brink of hell—or even a ‘hell for a short time.’ It is blasphemous to think of it as a place where a petty God exacts the last pound—or ounce—of flesh.... St. Catherine of Genoa, a mystic of the 15th century, wrote that the ‘fire’ of purgatory is God’s love ‘burning’ the soul so that, at last, the soul is wholly aflame. It is the pain of wanting to be made totally worthy of One who is seen as infinitely lovable, the pain of desire for union that is now absolutely assured, but not yet fully tasted” (Leonard Foley, O.F.M., Believing in Jesus). from American Catholic.org
From the Office of Readings from the Liturgy of the Hours for All Souls, Dies Irae:
Solvet sæclum in favilla: David’s word with Sibyl’s blending,
Teste David cum Sibylla! Heaven and earth in ashes ending!
Quando iudex est venturus, When from heaven the Judge descendeth,
Cuncta stricte discussurus! On whose sentence all dependeth.
Per sepulchra regionum, Through earth’s sepulchres it ringeth;
Coget omnes ante thronum. All before the throne it bringeth.
Cum resurget creatura, All creation is awaking,
Iudicanti responsura. To its Judge an answer making.
In quo totum continetur, Wherein all hath been recorded:
Unde mundus iudicetur. Thence shall judgment be awarded.
Quidquid latet, apparebit: And each hidden deed arraigneth,
Nil inultum remanebit. Nothing unavenged remaineth.
Quem patronum rogaturus, Who for me be interceding,
Cum vix iustus sit securus? When the just are mercy needing?
Qui salvandos salvas gratis, Who dost free salvation send us,
Salva me, fons pietatis. Fount of pity, then befriend us!
Quod sum causa tuæ viæ: Caused thy wondrous Incarnation;
Ne me perdas illa die. Leave me not to reprobation!
Redemisti Crucem passus: On the Cross of suffering bought me.
Tantus labor non sit cassus. Shall such grace be vainly brought me?
Donum fac remissionis Grant Thy gift of absolution,
Ante diem rationis. Ere the day of retribution.
Culpa rubet vultus meus: All my shame with anguish owning;
Supplicanti parce, Deus. Spare, O God, thy suppliant groaning!
Et latronem exaudisti, Through the dying thief forgiven,
Mihi quoque spem dedisti. Thou to me a hope hast given.
Sed tu bonus fac benigne, Yet, good Lord, in grace complying,
Ne perenni cremer igne. Rescue me from fires undying!
Et ab hædis me sequestra, From the goats afar divide me,
Statuens in parte dextra. To Thy right hand do thou guide me.
Flammis acribus addictis: Doomed to flames of woe unbounded
Voca me cum benedictis. Call me with thy saints surrounded.
Cor contritum quasi cinis: See, like ashes, my contrition;
Gere curam mei finis. Help me in my last condition.
qua resurget ex favilla From the dust of earth returning
Iudicandus homo reus. Man for judgment must prepare him;
Huic ergo parce, Deus: Spare, O God, in mercy spare him!
"The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished, yet is their hope full of immortality; chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself. In the time of their visitation they shall shine, and shall dart about as sparks through stubble; they shall judge nations and rule over peoples, and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth, and the faithful shall abide with him in love: because grace and mercy are with his holy ones, and his care is with his elect."
-- From the Book of Wisdom, (a reading for Mass on All Soul's Day).
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed. Through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
In paradisum (English: "Into paradise") is an antiphon from the traditional Latin liturgy of the Roman Catholic Requiem Mass. It is sung by the choir as the body is being taken out of the church:Amen
In paradisum deducant te Angeli; in tuo adventu suscipiant te martyres, et perducant te in civitatem sanctam Ierusalem. Chorus angelorum te suscipiat, et cum Lazaro quondam paupere æternam habeas requiem. May angels lead you into paradise; upon your arrival, may the martyrs receive you and lead you to the holy city of Jerusalem. May the ranks of angels receive you, and with Lazarus, the poor man, may you have eternal rest.Mozarts Requiem Mass in D Minor
At his weekly general audience on 2nd November 2011, addressing pilgrims from various different countries, Pope Benedict XVI focused his remarks on the Solemnity of All Souls and the reality of death.
In today's world, the Holy Father went on, "there is a widespread tendency to think that everything must be approached with the criteria of experimental science, and that even the great question of death must be answered, not with faith, but on the basis of empirical data. We are not sufficiently aware, however, that precisely by doing so we have ended up falling into a form of spiritism, in the attempt to have some contact with the world beyond death". However, for Christians the Solemnities of All Saints and All Souls "tell us that only those capable of recognising great hope in death are also able to live lives founded on hope. ... Man needs eternity; for him any other hope is too brief, too limited. Man is explainable only if there is a Love which overcomes all isolation, even the isolation of death, in a totality which transcends time and space. Man is explainable, he finds his most profound meaning, only if God exists. And we know that God ceased to be distant, that He came close to us". "God truly showed Himself, He became accessible, He so loved the world 'that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life'. And by the supreme act of love upon the Cross, by emerging Himself in the abyss of death, He conquered death, He rose again and opened the doors of eternity for us too. Christ supports us through the night of death, which He Himself experienced. He is the Good Shepherd, to Whose guidance we can entrust ourselves without fear, because He knows the way, even through the darkness". "It is precisely faith in eternal life which gives Christians the courage to love this earth of ours even more intensely, and to work to build an earthly future of true and secure hope", the Holy Father concluded.
On this day is observed the commemoration of the faithful departed, in which our common and pious Mother the Church, immediately after having endeavored to celebrate by worthy praise all her children who already rejoice in heaven, strives to aid by her powerful intercession with Christ, her Lord and Spouse, all those who still groan in purgatory, so that they may join as soon as possible the inhabitants of the heavenly city." — Roman Martyrology (from Catholic Culture)
Over at Blue Eyed Ennis, Phil found this little gem of a video of John O'Donohue introducing and reciting his poem Beannacht:
Let us then be exiles from our body, so as not to be exiles from Christ. Though we are still in the body, let us not give ourselves to the things of the body. We must not reject the natural rights of the body, but we must desire before all else the gifts of grace. What more need be said? It was by the death of one man that the world was redeemed. Christ did not need to die if he did not want to, but he did not look on death as something to be despised, something to be avoided, and he could have found no better means to save us than by dying. Thus his death is life for all. We are sealed with the sign of his death; when we pray we preach his death; when we offer sacrifice we proclaim his death. His death is victory; his death is a sacred sign; each year his death is celebrated with solemnity by the whole world. What more should we say about his death since we use this divine example to prove that it was death alone that won freedom from death, and death itself was its own redeemer? Death is then no cause for mourning, for it is the cause of mankind’s salvation. Death is not something to be avoided, for the Son of God did not think it beneath his dignity, nor did he seek to escape it. Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited.
Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing. The soul has to turn away from the aimless paths of this life, from the defilement of an earthly body; it must reach out to those assemblies in heaven (though it is given only to the saints to be admitted to them) to sing the praises of God. We learn from Scripture how God’s praise is sung to the music of the harp: Great and wonderful are your deeds, Lord God Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Who will not revere and glorify your nature? You alone are holy; all nations will come and worship before you. The soul must also desire to witness your nuptials, Jesus, and to see your bride escorted from earthly to heavenly realities, as all rejoice and sing: All flesh will come before you. No longer will the bride be held in subjection to this passing world but will be made one with the spirit. Above all else, holy David prayed that he might see and gaze on this: One thing I have asked of the Lord, this I shall pray for: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, and to see how gracious is the Lord.
Some links for the feast day:
- iBenedictines - All Souls Day 2013
- CatholicCulture.org has a some information on the teaching of the feast day and suggested activities
- Word on Fire