02 November 2006

A sobering day

For many years now, the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed has been one of my beloved days in the liturgical life and prayer of the Church. While I always anticipate All Saints' Day with great joy, I anticipate All Souls' Day with a certain sadness.

On this day I naturally consider my own future death, whenever it may come (I'm hoping for death before knee replacement). But importantly, my thoughts and prayers turn always on this day to my parents, Bill and Pat. Dad has been dead now twenty years and Mom eighteen.

I look forward to the day when I will at long last see them again; and yet, I somehow know that they will embrace me and swiftly take my hands and lead me to the Lord Jesus. It will be a joyous occassion not so much because of them, but because of Jesus. This realization is for me a bitter-sweet one.

The prayers for the Mass say it all and so well:

Merciful Father,
hear our prayers and console us.
As we renew our faith in your Son,
whom you raised from the dead,
strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters
will share in his resurrection,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Today is a day both of sorrow and of hope, a hope that somehow produces a joy. It is a day of one of those great paradoxes of the Christian life and faith and, as such, it is a beautiful and moving day.

Let us today recall the beautiful words of Sant Ambrose concerning the death of his brother:

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree it 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 (thought it is given only to the saints to be admitted to them) to sing the praises of God.

Let us then raise our prayers to the Father for all of the dead remembering that "it is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins" (II Mac 12:46). In the words of Saint Ambrose: "We have loved [them] in life. Let us not forget [them] in death.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

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