All Souls Day

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Today, November 2, is the Feast of All Souls.

From a book on the death of his brother Satyrus by Saint Ambrose, bishop:

It was by the death of one man that the world was redeemed. Christ did not need to die if he did not want to, but he did not look on death as something to be despised, something to be avoided, and he could have found no better means to save us than by dying. Thus his death is life for all. We are sealed with the sign of his death; when we pray we preach his death; when we offer sacrifice we proclaim his death. His death is victory; his death is a sacred sign; each year his death is celebrated with solemnity by the whole world.

What more should we say about his death since we use this divine example to prove that it was death alone that won freedom from death, and death itself was its own redeemer? Death is then no cause for mourning, something to be avoided, for the Son of God did not think it beneath his dignity, nor did he seek to escape it.

Death was not part of nature; it became part of nature. God did not decree death from the beginning; he prescribed it as a remedy. Human life was condemned because of sin to unremitting labor and unbearable sorrow and so began to experience the burden of wretchedness. There had to be a limit to its evils; death had to restore what life had forfeited. Without the assistance of grace, immortality is more of a burden than a blessing.

From: Liturgy of the Hours

We are apt to see death as punishment for sin. But, St. Ambrose offers a different perspective. Death is not merely a consequence of sin, but a release from the struggle with sin and evil that pervades the temporal realm. Redeemed by Christ, the saints who long to be with Him rejoice in their deaths as the means by which they are freed from the chains of this sinful world to a Kingdom permeated by the grace of Christ. That is why the sea is pictured in the Book of Revelation as being so still as to be a seas of glass, like crystal (Rev 4:6). The turbulent sea, such as the Sea of Galilee on which the apostles sailed, is a symbol of a world in conflict between good and evil and the presence of sin. When Jesus calmed the Sea, He demonstrated His power over evil, just as surely as when He freed the demoniac from his demons. The crystal sea in Revelation is symbol of the heavenly Kingdom, where sin is no more and Christ’s grace abounds. This is what awaits the saint, and this is why death is no terror for the saint. Instead, it is freedom!

Here are a few Scripture passages that support the Church’s teaching on the Communion of Saints:

Communion of Saints: (Catechism of the Catholic Church, para: 61, 946-962, 2683)

The saints in heaven and the saints on earth remain one family in Christ: Mt 22:32; Lk 9:30-31; Lk 15:7, 10; Lk 20:38

Death does not separate us from the Body of Christ: Rm 8:35-39; Col 1:18; 2 Pt 1:4, 1 Jn 3:1-2; Rev 20:6

The followers of Christ on Earth are holy ones of God: Acts 9:13, 32, 41; Rm 8:27; 1 Cor 6:1-2; Phlm 4-5, 7; Heb 13:24; Jude 3

Those who have gone before us in faith are holy ones of God: Mt 27:52; Rev 5:8; Rev 8:3-4; Rev 11:16-18; Rev 19:5-8

Honor is given to the holy ones of God who have gone before us in faith; they are models of faith and virtue: Gen 18:1-3; Gen 19:1-2; 1 Sm 44:1-15; Rm 13:7; Heb 6:12; Heb 13:7; Jam 5:10-11

The holy ones in heaven are aware of and concerned for their brothers and sisters on Earth: 2 Macc 15:12-16; Lk 15:7, 10; Heb 12:1

As members of the Body of Christ, we are called to pray for each other: Rm 15:30-33; Eph 6:18-20; Col 4:2-4; 1 Thess 5:25; 2 Thess 1:11-12; 1 Tim 2:1-5

The prayers of the righteous are powerful: Jam 5:16-18

The holy ones in heaven pray for us: Rev 5:8; Rev 8:3-4

It is clear from these passages in Revelation that the holy ones in heaven do pray, though it does not specify for whom or what they are praying.  Nevertheless, given that they no longer are in need of prayers, and given that it has been shown that the holy ones in heaven are aware of and concerned for their brothers and sisters on Earth, and given that all members of the Body of Christ are called to pray for each other, it is reasonable to conclude that they are praying for the holy ones still on Earth.

Mary (Catechism: 487-511, 963-975): Ex 40:34-35; 2 Sam 6:9, 12-14; Is 7:10-14; Mt 1:16; Mt 1:18-2:23; Mk 3:31-35; Lk 1:26-56; Lk 2; Jn 2:1-12; Jn 19:25-27; Acts 1:13-14; Rev 12:1-6, 13-18

Statues and images (Catechism: 1159-1162): Ex 25:17-20; Nm 21:4-9; 2 Kgs 18:1-4; 1 Chr 28:18-19; Ez 41:17-20

Angels and demons (Catechism: 328-336, 391-395): Ps 91:10-12; Tobit (entire book); Mt 18:10; Eph 6:12; Jude 6, 9; Rev 12:7-9

Relics (Catechism: 1674-1676): 2 Kgs 2:13-14; 2 Kgs 13:20-21; Mk 6:56; Lk 8:43-48; Acts 5:12-16; Acts 19:11-12

Prayers for the dead (Catechism: 958, 1032): 2 Macc 12:38-46; 2 Tim 1:16-18

Indulgences (Catechism: 1471-1479): Job 1:4-5; Mt 16:19; Mt 18:18; Lk 12:32-34; Gal 6:2; Col 1:24; Jam 2:14-24; 1 Jn 2:2

Mark 5:21-24, 35-43, Luke 7:1-10 and 1 John 5:16 are all examples of Jesus responding to the faith and merit of one person for the sake of another, which is the basis of the doctrine of indulgences.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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