This week is a big one in the Church’s liturgical calendar. We commemorate the afterlife in all its forms.
Starting on Tuesday we celebrate Halloween. While not actually a liturgical feast, Halloween originated as the vigil, or evening, celebration of the feast of All Saints (Nov 1). Halloween in its own way commemorates the afterlife by depicting Hell. I’m told the origin of dressing up in scary costumes was to give children an image of hell they wouldn’t want to go there. I’m not sure if that’s actually how it historically developed, but I like the connection.
On Wednesday we celebrate All Saints Day. Opposite of hell, this feast celebrates the residents of heaven. To live in heaven means you are a saint. You may not be a canonized saint whose name is known to everyone, that is why we have this feast day. There are many more saints in heaven than we know. John in revelation speaks of a “multitude that no one could count” (Rev 7:9). On Wednesday we honour all of them and ask for their prayers.
Finally, on Thursday we celebrate All Souls Day. This feast is less of a celebration and more of a heartfelt prayer. We pray for the souls in purgatory. These souls are indeed holy. They died in the Grace of Christ and are assured of Heaven.
Why are they in purgatory? To become perfect. As we go through life we develop attachments to sin, even after our conversion. We can work to rid ourselves of these attachments throughout life, but if that project is not complete when we are called from this world, God provides us a place where we rid ourselves of these attachments so we might love God with an undivided heart.
This week is big. Please join us for Mass. There are even special indulgences for the souls in purgatory by attending Mass on All Souls.
Fr. David Reitzel