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Commemoration of All Souls 2020

2nd Nov 2020


All Souls Sermon 2020

 

“Praying for one’s departed loved ones is a far too immediate urge to be suppressed. It is a most beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death”.                                                                                 Pope Benedict XVI.

 

 

At this particular time of the year in the first days of November, the Church seems to wrap itself in the lives of those who have gone before: On the 1st November in the lives of all the saints, which we celebrated yesterday. As the days in November wear on, we come to that moment on the 11th hour of the 11th month as Armistice Day is observed. And then there comes Remembrance Sunday and the wearing of poppies… Today’s All Soul’s Day is the Church’s Day of the Dead, and forms an inseparable apart of the general commemorating and remembering of the dead which we do at this time. Its purpose is to keep in mind of what we know as already. That there is a fine veil that separates life from death. Similarly, there is a fine veil that separates us from those who have gone before us, and especially those whose lives we came in the past to know and to love. They are a part of us and their influence upon us is with us there for us in the present and for all time. They remain in our hearts. 

 

Life is of God’s making and it is sacred. This is vital for our understanding of who God is. As God’s creatures we stand in awe of the grandeur and the mystery of what he has made and how he has made it. The true meaning of life lies beyond mere speech. No wonder, then, that the appropriate response in the remembrance of the dead is one of silence. The Two Minute’s Silence speaks to us clearly in our busy world more than ever and in ways words cannot express. Silence holds the tension that exists between the living and the dead. Yet another tradition in the remembering of the dead is the writing down or the reading out of the names of the dead. We may imagine the war memorials, with their thousands of names, the books of commemoration and condolence, as well as the engravings for those known and unknown on countless memorial stones, including our own. At this All Souls Mass, the long list of the names of the dead, known by you and I both individually and severally is solemnly read out. It is stands both as a list of the dead and a declaration of our faith in the one who has risen from the dead – Our Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

In his great poem ‘The Wasteland’ TS Eliot, recovering from a nervous breakdown, described a crowd of commuters  crossing over Westminster Bridge in the year 1921:

 

A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,

 

I had not thought death had undone so many.

 

Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,

 

And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

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Flowed up the hill and down King William Street,

 

To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours

 

With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.

 

 

He observed them; a people recovering from The Great War; most of them suffering the deaths of their menfolk: sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins. And the feeling is one of immense sorrow and loss. And this is a sorrow that Eliot describes as a kind of emotional and actual ‘undoing’. “I had not thought that death had undone so many” he says. Death and the brevity of life and the loss of a loved ones still comes as a kind of raw pain; an undoing. Another poet, Dylan Thomas writes a poem which is an elegy for his dead father and bids us ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’. 

 

And you, my father, there on the sad height, 
Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. 
Do not go gentle into that good night. 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 

It expresses a passionate anger that must form a part of the sense of impotent rage at a life gone from his midst, and the terrible loss of it. This too, forms a part of the human experience of death. But the Christian message is the one which, in the light of Christ’s death and Resurrection, is always one of hope. Death does not have the last word.

 

This Commemoration of All Souls on this day each year, 2nd November, is, as Emeritus Pope Benedict once said, “…a beautiful manifestation of solidarity, love and assistance, reaching beyond the barrier of death”. However faint are our powers of recollection and however frail a hold we have on the life of the world to come, we nevertheless feel the strong influences of love and thanksgiving for those who have gone before us. We pray tonight continue on our life’s journey in faith and hope, so we may be maintained and sustained by the One who made us and loves each one of us as Christian souls. He is The One who came to show us the way through death and into life eternal, even Jesus Christ our Lord our alpha and omega; our beginning and our true end.  Amen.