Rev. Gerald E. Murray: Sorrow and Hope On All Souls Day

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By Fr. Gerald E. Murray, First Things , 11 . 2 . 21

The Rev. Gerald E. Murray, J.C.D. is pastor of Holy Family Church in New York.

“We believe in the life eternal. We believe that the souls of all those who die in the grace of Christ—whether they must still be purified in purgatory, or whether from the moment they leave their bodies Jesus takes them to paradise as He did for the Good Thief—are the People of God in the eternity beyond death, which will be finally conquered on the day of the Resurrection when these souls will be reunited with their bodies.”—From the Credo of the People of God, Pope St. Paul VI, June 30, 1968

The tradition of using black vestments for the celebration of Mass on All Souls Day is enjoying a modest revival in the Catholic Church. The liturgical reforms introduced following the Second Vatican Council included the innovation of using white vestments at funeral Masses and other Masses for the dead. This change was somewhat jarring for many in the pews, as white vestments are used on the feast days of saints who did not die as martyrs (for martyrs, the priest wears red vestments).

White signifies the blessed state of those who now see “God [who] is light, and in [whom] there is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). The beatific vision of God transforms the forgiven sinner and brings about his union with God, filling his soul with divine light. The halo circling the heads of saints in sacred art represents the same truth as the white Mass vestments: Our brothers and sisters in Christ, who lived lives of true holiness, have been lifted up out of the darkness of sin and death that overshadows our world.  …

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