All Souls

Readings for the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls’):

Psalm 130 or 116:10-17

< a href=""> Wisdom 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’

‘Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?’

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. — 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (NRSV)

All Souls’ Day is always sort of a quiet day after the whoop-la of All Hallows Eve, better known as Halloween, and then the actual day of All Saints’ (a celebration which may now be moved to the closest Sunday). It sometimes seems a bit confusing to think of every Christian as a saint and then celebrating a day where only the “biggies” are recognized as saints — Peter, Thomas (several of them), Augustine (both of them), Joan of Arc, the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Patrick, etc., — while relegating the rest of the “saints” to the lesser celebration of All Souls’ or the Day of the Faithful Departed. Still, it remains on the calendar, is part of the liturgy of the day and on the designated day, and a day when we think of those loved ones who have, as we say, have passed through the vale and into a greater light.

We have a wealth of readings appropriate for this day, but the one that stood out for me, or rather began a recording in my head, was the one quoted above. I read it and my mind immediately began hearing an aria from Handel’s Messiah, an oratorio I’ve loved since the first time I heard it at age eight. While I’m usually more into the choruses than the recitatives and arias, and the higher voices rather than the lower ones, part one of the bass arias stick in my mind, “The trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” It’s a triumphant piece of music, solemn yet hopeful, and therein lies its probable attraction for me.

Like everyone else in this world, I have lost people dear to me, people who I consider saints even though nobody outside their immediate circles may have heard of them. They lived their lives, did their jobs, and subsequently left the world a little better for their having been here. Some were fervent church-goers, some seldom if ever darkened the church door, but on the whole, they preached the love of God louder than many a televangelist with a high-priced sound system, TV franchise and a following of thousands. They loved where they didn’t have to love, cared when many simply passed by, were honest and fair in their dealings, practiced mercy and compassion, suffered sometimes with diseases and disabilities, and sometimes took unpopular stands when the rest of the world was going a different way. They were very human human beings, each with a set of their own faults and flaws, but each one made an impression on me at some point in my life and impacted my life from that time onward. Each one came to the end of their lives and departed it, taking a piece of my heart with them. I would never see them again, at least, on this side of the second coming. If it weren’t for my faith, sort of summed up by the words of the aria, I wouldn’t have been able to go on, at least with any joy or hope or enjoyment. The thought that “…the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised…” sustained me as, I am sure, it has many others.

On All Souls’ Day the veil between heaven and earth is, to me, a bit thinner. While I remember my loved ones throughout the year at different times and places, on November 2nd they all seem to be a lot closer than usual and in greater numbers than usual. I sense their presence and think of them with love. I know that before I die, there will undoubtedly be more of my holy souls who will leave this life and that my list of departed loved ones will grow longer. Still, one day, the trumpet shall sound and we shall all be changed into what God intended for us in the beginning — incorruptible, immortal, transformed.

Treasure your own saints. Remember them and thank God for their presence in your lives. Thank God for them and their witness, and have faith that for you and for them, one day the trumpet shall sound.

Deo gracias.

(In loving memory of A.B.O., Feb. 6,1905 – Nov.2,1960, a saint among saints.)

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter

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