The Month of November: A Time of Remembrance and Commemoration
The month of November is a time given over, in Catholic tradition, to remembrance of those who have died. Beginning with the Feast of All Saints on November 1, followed by the Feast of All Souls on November 2nd , we mark this time liturgically through celebration and commemoration. The heart of these feasts, like the heart of all celebrations in the Church, is centered on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, a mystery in which we share through our baptism.
The Feast of All Saints:
This feast finds its start historically in 7th century Rome when Pope Gregory III dedicated a chapel to Christ, Mary, the Apostles, Martyrs and Confessors, a dedication that occurred on Nov 1. This theme and the date associated with it, spread as a feast throughout Europe during the Middle Ages and helped to establish November as a special time to reflect on the Communion of Saints.
We are one Church that includes those who have gone before, those here now and those who are yet to come. All time is one in God. This feast celebrates the communion of saints whose way of life is an example for us to follow and a reminder of the commitment we made in our baptism to live the life of Christ. We seek to follow the example they set and as we are all one communion in Christ, we ask their help and intercession in our own lives.
(want to know more about the Saints? Check out our Facebook page and website, and watch the bulletin through the month of November for this and other topics)
The Feast of All Souls:
This feast, celebrated on Nov 2nd, commemorates those who have gone before us, and it is intimately linked to the Feast of All Saints that precedes it. The roots of this feast are found in the early Christian customs surrounding those who had died. These early customs included the celebration of the anniversary of death with a Eucharistic liturgy. The key word here is “celebration.” This is a joyful celebration for the Christian understanding of death is seen through the lens of Jesus’ death and resurrection! Our celebration is hope-filled for our hope, and the hope of all those who follow Christ is that even as we share in a death like Christ, we will share in a resurrection like Christ. Death is not the end and this feast marks our faith in this hope-filled future.
The Objects That Mark the Month
During the month of November we mark this focus on hope in the life to come in a number of ways. First, the Book of the Dead is placed at the baptismal font. We are all invited to write the names of family and friends who have died in this book. As a community we then remember and pray for the faithful departed in a special way every Sunday by reading their names during the intercessions.
Second, not only is the Book of the Dead placed at the font but the community is invited to place pictures and mementos of deceased family and friends at the font. We are one community of the living and the dead, and by seeing their faces and sharing in their memory that community is made all the stronger. You are invited to bring photos and mementos to leave beside the font throughout the month of November
Third, our focus is on the font! This is where the Book of the Dead is placed. This is where we put pictures and mementos of the deceased. The font is a place of life and death. In its waters we die to our old selves and rise to a new life in Christ. We come to the font to mark new life in Christ by baptizing both infants and adults in its waters. We also come to the font to mark the end of life or the transition from one life to the next. During our funeral rites we receive the body of the deceased at the font. We spread a white cloth (a pall) over the casket as a reminder of the white garment given to us at our baptism. Through its’ waters we enter into the communion of the Body of Christ, past, present and future. Here we share in Christ’s death and resurrection, here we share in our hope for a future with Christ and the Saints. The same water we bless ourselves with every Sunday reminds us of the meanings of our baptism, is the same water sprinkled over a casket, is the same water besides which we share the names of our dead, share their pictures and their stories. We are all one communion in Jesus Christ our Lord.
(want to know more about the Christian understanding of death? Want to know more about Christian funerals? Watch our Facebook page and Website throughout the month of November as well as the bulletin for more information and resources)