Feast of All Souls

2 November 2006: All Souls Day

Remembering all the faithful departed in a liturgy can be traced around 988 AD when St. Odile of Cluny came up with a memorial for the dead. Tertullian in the 2nd century also came up with a liturgy. But only in the 13th century that Rome approved of the memorial. Since then, we, Christians, have celebrated All Souls Day. The ordo (the book that contains the readings and feasts of the day) tells us that the whole month of November is dedicated to the dead, and thus visitation of the grave as we do on their death anniversaries can be done during this month, especially on November 2nd. Thus, for many of us who were not able to visit the graves of our loved ones, especially those from the provinces, we may visit them during the month, if not offer prayers, masses and candles for their souls wherever we are.

What does All Souls Day mean for us? Charles Swindol tells us in his book, The Finishing Touch, that when Dan Richardson, an enthusiastic believer in Christ, lost his battle with cancer, the following piece was distributed at his memorial service.

Cancer is limited...

It cannot cripple love,

It cannot corrode faith,

It cannot eat away peace,

It cannot destroy confidence,

It cannot kill a friendship,

It cannot shut out memories,

It cannot silence courage,

It cannot invade the soul,

It cannot reduce eternal life,

It cannot quench the spirit,

It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.

The practice of visiting the departed and remembering them on All Souls Day illustrate the piece from Dan Richardson. Wives visit their husband’s grave --- or vice versa --- to disprove in the marriage ceremony the phrase till death do us part, is a misnomer: death does not part or destroys love and friendship. Love continues and conquers death. When we visit our loved ones, even perhaps, our ancestors, we say that their spirit literally lives in us --- we get a sprinkling of grandfather’s stubbornness or an aunt’s fashion sense; we get to inherit the courage of a great grandfather. Death cannot eradicate what is in our blood. A few of us would bring pictures of those who passed away and place candles to remember them. With each lighting of a taper or a vigil candle, the memories of their lives flood our minds and we are moved with affection and longing.

When we come to the grave of our loved ones, together with all the others, we are reminded that in death, everyone is equal. The farmer and executive live in the shadow of death; the prize-winner and the pickpocket, the nun and the prostitute, Fernando Poe Jr. and his aide, Ninoy and Marcos, children, teens, and the elderly are not spared from death. The door of the hearse is always open. We may postpone it, or tame it, but death will still be there. It must remind us that on All Souls Day, we are asked to evaluate our lives according to death’s door. That which you cannot bring --- those that obsessed us during our lifetime --- might not be the most important thing in life.

The graveyard reminds us of things that last: love, faith, peace, confidence, friendship, memories, courage, the soul, our spirit are the things that accompany us to eternal life. After the throes of death, the change that happens to all of us is called our resurrection. And the life that follows is forever.

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