NOVEMBER 1 and November 2 for us Filipinos are special days. Everything stops. There is no work and no school. But people travel to cemeteries, which bustle with life. Once in a year our beloved dead pull us from our busy lives to remember them and to be united because of them. Is it really death that brings us together?
What do we bring to the cemeteries? We bring fresh flowers, not plastic ones. We light candles. We bring food. Fresh flower, lighted candles, food – all of these are symbols of life. Hence, we bring life to the cemeteries. It is not death that makes our life stop on November 1 and November 2. It is our Christian belief that there is life beyond death. So, we refuse to forget our dead. They are still part of our life. We believe that death does not separate us from our beloved. We are still related to them.
However, our relationship now is beyond the physical and the material. They are in our memories, and most especially in our prayers. So, we do not go to the cemeteries just to eat and see each other, not even just to remember the dead. We go there to pray for them. This is our contact with them – our prayers. We pray for them and we ask their help through our prayers. In fact, the lighting of the candle and the putting of fresh flowers are done reverently. They signify our prayers.
Our celebrations of All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2 are deeply rooted in our Christian faith. In our Creed we proclaim: I believe in the Communion of Saints; I believe in the resurrection of the dead. The saints are those who live in the grace of God. The Church is made up of three ‘levels of saints’. The saints who are in heaven belong to the Church Triumphant. They are already victorious, sharing the glory of the angels. We praise the Lord for them and we hope that we and our beloved dead would be among someday. There are already many – billions of them - who have reached their goal in heaven and we thank and praise the Lord for them on November 1.
The saints who have died but are not yet fully holy are being purified in purgatory. They belong to the Suffering Church and are in the state of cleansing. We help them with our prayers on November 2. One day they too will join the Triumphant Church. Those in purgatory, having the saving grace of God in them, will be fully with God after their period of purification. If we are in the state of God’ grace, we saints on earth belong to the Militant Church. We are still struggling against evil. We ask the help of those who have already made it in the other life, both those in heaven and those in purgatory.
How wonderful it is that we belong to this great communion that stretch for thousands of years! We are really in good company.
Those who do not belong to this communion are those who have rejected God and his love. Those who definitively rejected him are those in hell. Those on earth who live in grave sin also reject him but hopefully they can still accept him in this life. We work and pray for this.
Unfortunately, due to commercialism and pagan influences, the celebration of life and holiness is being turned into time of fear, horror and death. This is the Halloween culture that many are unwittingly embracing, as if it is funny and cool. Is it not more cool and lovely to think of life, light, holiness and goodness? Let us reject this culture of death, and instead turn back to the real meaning of these days because we believe in life! The life beyond this one is love and holiness. In fact for a believer death is a door that leads to God.