All Souls Day is a day for commemoration of all the faithful departed and is observed on 2 November.

The feasts of All Saints and All Souls, which are celebrated one day apart in November, 1 & 2, are the two sides of the same coin. This precious coin is the incredible and all-encompassing love that God our Creator has for all of creation and therefore for each one of us. That unconditional love of the God who is Love carries us from the moment of our conception to our final home with God. As Christians we believe that, like Jesus, we will pass through the gateway of death to that new life in God that is our destiny.

In the earliest Christian scriptures, St Paul, writing to the Romans explicates this belief:

We do not live for ourselves and we do not die for ourselves. If we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord; and so, alive or dead we belong to the Lord. It was for this purpose that Christ both died and came to life again: so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living. Romans 14:7-9Jesus, too, says: “Now he is God, not of the dead, but of the living; for to God everyone is alive.”Luke 20:38

There has long been a tradition in our Church of praying for our dead. At each Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer we pray for them: “Remember our brothers and sisters who have gone to their rest in the hope of rising again. Bring them into the light of your presence”. Mary MacKillop too reminded the Sisters, “Let us not forget our loved ones in our prayers.”

This remembrance in prayer in later times grew into the perceived need for a notion such as purgatory, a state of being purified of anything that might hold the person back from God. Over the ages the mystery of our journey through death to life has taken many forms in our attempt to understand what we cannot know, of what we have no experience. We can only use our imperfect images to try to describe the unknown. St Paul alludes to this when he says:

Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12

We are utterly blessed to be fully known by our God and so all our life – our joys, our difficulties, our sufferings, our weakness and sinfulness are surely gathered into the immense love of our God who draws us ever more and more into that love until we come to know fully.

The Opening Prayer of the Mass for 2 November brings together our understanding and our celebration, in Jesus, of the mystery of the life and death of our loved ones and of all our faithful departed.

God, our Creator and Redeemer,
You are the glory of believers
And the life of the just.
Your Son redeemed us
By dying and rising to life again.
Since our departed brothers and sisters believed in the mystery or our resurrection,
Let them share the joys and blessings of the life to come.

This is the basis of our hope and why the Feast of All Souls is such a joyful one.

Monica Barlow rsj