The first two days of November provide the Church with back to back feasts in which we remember those who have gone before us. On November 1, we celebrate the Feast of All Saints; the holy men and women whom the Church has declared to be enjoying the beatific vision of God’s; popularly known as heaven. Today, November 2, we celebrate the Feast of All Souls; a day in which we remember all those who have died, but who are not yet ready to see God face to face. These are the suffering souls undergoing the purgation of sins in the life hereafter. We believe these souls will be saved – that is, one day be in God’s presence – but only as through fire, as Saint Paul tells us (I Cor. 3:15). These souls need our prayers, and we theirs. Let us not forget the great could of witnesses, of which our Church consists. The souls in heaven (to use a common, yet theologically confusing phrase) and the souls in purgatory (a common, but even more confusing theological phrase) are alive, because they are alive in Christ. May we be so blessed as to one day be purified of our sins, so that we too may enter fully into the presence of the Most Holy God.
From today’s first reading for the Mass of All Souls:
Wisdom 3:1-9 (NAB)
The souls of the virtuous are in the hands of God,
no torment shall ever touch them.
In the eyes of the unwise, they did appear to die,
their going looked like a disaster,
their leaving us, like annihilation;
but they are in peace.
If they experienced punishment as men see it,
their hope was rich with immortality;
slight was their affliction, great will their blessings be.
God has put them to the test
and proved them worthy to be with him;
he has tested them like gold in a furnace,
and accepted them as a holocaust.
When the time comes for his visitation they will shine out;
as sparks run through the stubble, so will they.
They shall judge nations, rule over peoples,
and the Lord will be their king for ever.
They who trust in him will understand the truth,
those who are faithful will live with him in love;
for grace and mercy await those he has chosen.