We are coming to the end of the liturgical year and as we progress towards the First Sunday of Advent there are a few celebrations that indicate that Advent will arrive soon. This coming week we will celebrate the Feast of All Saints and All Souls. It is fitting that the feast that celebrates those who have finished the race be celebrated at the latter stages of our liturgical year.
You might have noticed, as you have been out and about over the last few weeks, that there is a lot of commercialism surrounding Halloween. There are a lot of displays selling costumes, sweets and decorations, some of it is designed to be scary and plays around with the idea of death in order to entertain. This secular celebration cuts the human story short, it shows off the death portion with skeletons, ghosts and zombies but doesn’t illude what comes after it. Where as we have the full story with the feast of All Saints the following day, formally known as “All Hallows”. The world celebrates the eve of our feast with us but they don’t stay for the end of the story which is the triumph of life over death celebrated on the 1st and 2nd of November.
As Catholics we celebrate life and the feast of All Saints is just that, the celebration of all those who have made it to Heaven. Unfortunately, there are not enough days in the year for every canonised saint to have a feast, so they have this day as theirs. We can also include all those who are in Heaven who lived Christian lives in a less public way. We can think of our deceased relatives who handed on the faith to us as some of those who might be enjoying this great feast in Heaven. If they have not quite made it there yet, the following day of All Souls a feast that recognises the Church in its purgative stage is celebrated. We pray for those who have passed on and are assured of eternal live but are being purified and prepared for their admission to Heaven. We celebrate the feast of All Souls the day after All Saints, to remember them and to keep them in prayer. We are supported by scripture and Tradition, for praying for the dead is a good and holy thing, Maccabees 12:43-45. For even in the account in the second book of Maccabees, prior to Christ’s coming they anticipated the resurrection of the dead. Our God is a God of the living and so these two great celebrations this week really put that in focus that even though people we known and loved have gone from this world they are still alive and we are called to continue to journey with them and rejoice in those who have made it to Heaven.
Fr Tony King-Archer