Reflections on the Feast of All Souls By Fr. Efren ‘EJ’ Jimenez, OFM

• No doubt, the observance of the feast of all souls here in the Philippines is most unique – flowers, candles, food and drinks, and even music are part of the celebration. One cannot separate the bonding of the living and the dead, and among the living. Prayers and incensation are made and on top of these are the celebrations of the Eucharist. As if one can hear the very words of Jesus in one solemn tone: “do this in my memory!”

• The theological underpinning of the feast is the acknowledgment of human frailty. Since few people achieve perfection in this life but, rather, go to the grave still scarred with traces of sinfulness, some come face-to-face with God. The Council of Trent affirmed this purgatory state and insisted that the prayers of the living can speed the process of purification.

• Superstition still clung to the observance. Medieval popular belief held that the souls in purgatory could appear on this day in the form of witches, toads or will-ó-the-wisps. Graveside food offerings supposedly eased the dead’s rest.

• Observances of more religious nature have survived. These include public processions or private visits to cemeteries and decorating graves with flowers and lights, recitation of the Holy Rosary and celebration of the Holy mass.

• Whether or not one should pray for the dead is one of the great arguments which divide Christians. Appalled by the abuse of indulgences in the Church of his day, Luther rejected the concept of purgatory. Yet prayer for a loved one is, for the believer, a way of erasing any distance, even death. In prayer we stand in God’s presence in the company of someone we love, even if that person has gone before us into death.

• The deeper religious truth – these are those things we confront in death – loss, change, and transformation. The common denominator in these three realities is the fact that one must give up something. It is possible for both loss and change to lead for transformation to occur unless something is lost and something is changed. Life is a continual process of losing. But in Jesus there is time for change towards transformation, a time comes for throwing stones away, for letting the water go so that it might be made into wine. For giving away five barley loaves so that a multitude may be fed, for the wheat to be crushed and become the Bread of Eternal Life.

About Fr. EJ and his other reflections.

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