The beginning of November – or, strictly speaking, the end of October – sees the end of British Summer Time, as the clocks go back one hour. As the leaves fall and the daylight lessens, we try to resist the temptation to think about preparing for the great commercial festival of 25th December, and, instead are offered the solemnity of All Saints at the month’s beginning, and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed, All Souls.
On 1st November we rejoice with all those – perhaps known to few or, indeed, only to God – who surround God’s throne in heavenly joy, plunged into the ocean of love. Having tried to live by faith, hope and love, they nevertheless weren’t always perfect, but knew how to repent and start again. In the Communion of Saints, we can rightly ask for the prayers of these many friends in heaven.
The day after, we pray for our dead. In the same Communion of Saints, we offer our prayers for the Holy Souls in Purgatory: those who, in the words of Benedict XVI, are in the
inward process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ. (Let God’s light shine forth, p172)
As St John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and martyr, said this about the Holy Souls:
They are of the same faith, hope and charity as us. They are partners in the same sacraments, but there are also the natural ties of affection, kinship and obligation. Every one of us has some of his or her friends and family there, therefore we must act like friends, let us be loving towards them now just as we claimed to love them when they were still with us on earth.
Remembrance Sunday claims our prayers for those who have died as a result of war, and none of us can forget those who’ve died as a result of COVID, or relatives and friends who’ve passed away. So, we can’t really escape from what are traditionally called Last Things. But this shouldn’t fill us with gloom, rather confidence in the risen Christ, not in our own merits. As a verse in an evening hymn, goes,
Grant us an evening bright and fair,
may life no sunset ever see;
but at the last may we behold
the glory of eternity. Amen.