Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Souls



A special traditio for All Souls Day. Requiem aeternam: Death is not the end, it is but the passageway to eternity.

In his 1998 message marking the millennium of the Church's observance of All Souls, Bl. Pope John Paul II wrote: "In praying for the dead, the Church above all contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross. Thus with St Odilo we can ceaselessly repeat: 'The Cross is my refuge, my way and my life The Cross is my invincible weapon. The Cross repels all evil. The Cross dispels the darkness.' The Lord’s Cross reminds us that all life is illumined by the light of Easter and that no situation is totally lost, for Christ conquered death and opened the way for us to true life. Redemption 'is brought about in the sacrifice of Christ, by which man redeems the debt of sin and is reconciled to God.'"

Memento mori Today is one of those days that in our time we are tempted gaffe off, to attenuate in some way, to look the other way. Why? Because it confronts us with reality in a very uncomfortable and forthright way; the reality that we will, in fact, die which, consequently, brings up the question of what life is all about, and, even more practically, how then shall I live in light of what life is about and why what I do matters. Yesterday, I read a lovely meditation on All Souls by Peter Hitchens, which he gave the provocative title, We are All Doomed. He writes about depictions of the Final Judgment in England's oldest cathedrals and how, even now, they can still serve the purpose for which they were composed. I urge you to read his evocative piece in its entirety, but his ending is well-worth repeating:

"If our vain and puffed up assessment of ourselves is true, and the past was such a dark age of ignorance and superstition, why did that age of superstition produce art and music so immeasurably better than our own?

"I think we might do well to be rather more modest about our achievements. It is interesting that the modern Britain, of motorways and shopping malls and hypermarkets, largely ignores or sweeps round the old cathedral cities. In London, people walk past Westminster Abbey without glancing at it, unless they are tourists. The one fully modern city which contains one of these masterpieces is Peterborough, where the Cathedral sits in strange solitude in a city centre that has no organic connection with it at all.

"Could it possibly be that the difference between the two worlds has something to do with the fact that our forebears felt there might be a higher judgement than the one of their fellow-creatures, so easily fooled by public relations and smiling exteriors? Maybe doom has something to be said for it."

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