Feast of All Souls
Pontifical North American College
Nov. 2, 2015
Today’s feast is a workout in hope, whose primary weight is not measured in kilos or pounds but in propositions of faith. The opening collect asks: “as our faith in your Son, raised from the dead, is deepened, so may our hope of resurrection for your departed servants also find new strength.” And so like reps in the gym, we are presented with this proposition of faith—the resurrection of the dead—again and again. “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment shall touch them,” we hear from the book of Wisdom (3:1). “Are you unaware that we…were baptized into his death?” says St. Paul. “We were indeed buried with him …so that just as Christ was raised from the dead…we too might live in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4). Maxing it out, Jesus promises: “This is the will of my father, that anyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day” (John 6:40).
These reps, deepening our faith in the resurrection, strengthen our hope such that our hope is full of immortality (Wisdom 3:4). Indeed, such hope does not disappoint! For it is firmly rooted in the sure knowledge that Christ will do the will of the one who sent him (Cf. John 6:38).
Yet this hope is not directed towards our own salvation but rather to those who have gone before us in the passing from this life into the next. Again the collect: “so may our hope of resurrection of your departed servants.” We are hoping in the salvation of “all souls.”
And it is fitting that we should work on the virtues of faith and hope today, for amongst those who have gone before us, we have the most in common with those penitent souls in purgatory. At the gates heaven, faith and hope have passed from the holy ones of God such that love alone remains; at gates of hell, faith and particularly hope have been abandoned by all—and may we never have anything in common with those lost souls—; and yet for us the pilgrim people on earth and for them the penitent souls in purgatory faith and hope are held in common.
And yet how deep is their faith in God where the light of His love radiates everywhere, casting not even a shadow of doubt. And how firm their hope as they strive towards the God who in His particular judgement has definitively wrought their redemption. And are these same virtues not to be found in us?
So, brothers, consider the surging hope and joy in the hearts of those souls who arrive today on the shores of purgatory. As our poet Dante describes, hundreds of souls on ships escorted by the angel of the Lord singing in exitu Israel de Aegypto, there they disembark where the Tiber meets the salty sea (Cf. Canto II: 28-54, 101). There they rush upon the shore endeavoring to understand new and eternal things. Hope, brothers, wrought by a definitive act of our Saving Lord. And we are to have the same virtue!