While the Church celebrates All Saints Day tomorrow, calling to mind the Church Triumphant, my thoughts tonight turn to November 2nd, All Souls Day when the Church commemorates and prays for the faithful departed. All Souls Day took on a more profound meaning for me back in 1994, the year my mother died.
A couple of years ago, I heard what was arguably one of the best homilies (short of Pope Benedict XVI) on the subject. I will try to give you the gist of it.
Our parochial vicar preached that a lot of our funeral liturgies tend to concentrate on ourselves. We make "celebrations of the life of" the deceased, rather than praying for the repose of their souls. We forget that we, too, are sinners, as were the deceased. It is as though the belief in Purgatory has slipped our collective consciences.
All Souls Day gives us the opportunity (not that we don't have it any other day) to pray for our loved ones, to offer them consolation by asking God to grant His mercy on them. Death does not break our bonds with our loved ones. They are still members of the Church, in this case, the Church Suffering.
He noted the fact that on Calvary, Jesus handed His Body, himself, to us, which is what happens in marriage. Out of love, Jesus gives Himself to his bride, the Church. It is the handing over of the Body that makes Him one with us. It is this sacrifice that gives us a share in the life of Christ.
Ultimately, the parochial vicar noted, we are on a pilgrimage. We seek the face of God. Ancient Israel begged the Lord not to hide his face from them. We continue to seek God's face. We pray that our loved ones are now beholding the face of God.
I wish that I could repeat word for word what our parochial vicar said, but this pretty much captures the essence of it. We should be conscious of the fact that in every Mass, the veil from heaven is lifted. We are united with the Church Triumphant (whose feast we celebrated yesterday), the Church Militant (ourselves) and the Church Suffering (the souls consigned to Purgatory). That is why, when we sing the praises of God, it is not just us. They are all joining us as well.