All Souls’ Day, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, is the day the Church recalls in a special way “those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.” Today is naturally a very somber day, especially for those of us who have lost a loved one recently.
Praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary can reveal the mysterious beauty and consoling power which the suffering and death of Christ has for those who believe (1 Cor 1:24). By taking up meditations on the Glorious Mysteries, we are able to see the magnificent effects of grace and the salvation won for us over and in spite of death. In these mysteries, we celebrate how Jesus conquered death, and we pray that those whom we love may have a share in that same triumph. We recognize that death is a sorrowful reality, but we look forward in hope to union with God in heaven. These mysteries give that hope “that those saddened by the certainty of dying might be consoled by the promise of immortality to come” (Preface for the Dead I).
1. The Resurrection
Jesus’s Resurrection is the pinnacle event of our salvation. It completes the Paschal Mystery and brings freedom and new life to all who believe. If not for the Resurrection, our faith would be in vain and we would remain in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). In place of sin and death, Christ shines a brilliant light into the darkness and breaks the fetters of despair. The Resurrection does not spare us from mortality, but grants us something so much greater: it gives us eternal life with Christ. The gift of faith sanctifies and sustains us in the face of death.
2. The Ascension
The Ascension, a great mystery of hope, teaches us the true nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a Kingdom not of this world, so our hopes are not restricted to this earthly domain (Jn 18:36). Instead, we are to direct our hearts and minds to the heavenly realities knowing that death is a necessary part of our entry upon the vision of God. Our hopes are not bound to this dusty earth, but we look to the New Creation, for “he who sat upon the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Rev 21:5).
3. The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Charity, that is, the love of God, refers first and foremost to the Holy Spirit, the uncreated love between the Father and the Son (ST I.37.1). The Spirit himself dwells within us from Baptism and empowers us to love as He does. In loving God and neighbor, God himself works in and through us. He directs and shapes our lives to conform with Jesus Christ. We are, therefore, united to God throughout our lives, and, when we die, we are drawn by this love into perfect unity with Him in Heaven.
4. The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Draw us after you, O Lord (Song 1:4). The ardent love of Christ which caused him to die for us is the very same love that draws us ever closer to Him. Jesus shows His extraordinary love for His immaculate Mother by taking her to himself, body and soul, into Heaven. The Assumption of Mary is the first fruits of salvation and a sign of the longing of Christ to bring all his brothers and sister to be with Him in eternal bliss.
5. The Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
As the immaculate Mother of God, the Virgin Mary has been elevated above all the angels to reign with her Son as Queen of Heaven and Earth. As our mother in Christ, she is our greatest advocate among the saints in Heaven. Turning to the Mother of Mercy, we entrust all our prayers in steadfast hope. May she welcome into Heaven all the faithful departed.
May our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and companions come to behold the loving face of Christ in His Kingdom, where he lives and reigns forever and ever.
Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus. O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.
Image: Fra Angelico, Harrowing of Hell