Today, being All Souls day, I would like to just take some time to introduce or re-introduce to some of you some of the basic doctrines surrounding our souls when we die. Our faith is simple and we proclaim it every Sunday and Solemnity in the Apostles or Nicene-Constantinople Creed.
I believe in the communion of saints…the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
We look for the resurrection of the dead, and life of the world to come.
What is the resurrection of the dead?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “the resurrection of the dead has been an essential element of the Christian faith from its beginnings.” (CCC 991) It is scripturally founded, and therefore flows from Divine Revelation:
“How can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, the our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor 15:12-14).
Essentially, the resurrection of the dead is the reuniting of our body and soul through the power of the Jesus’ resurrection. This can only happen if when we die, “the human body decays but the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with its glorified body” (CCC 997). It is not only the souls in heaven that will be reunited with their bodies, “on the last day,” but the souls that have done evil will also be reunited with their bodies but will go to the “resurrection of judgment.” It is evident that the only reason why we can profess this is because Christ has mediated it for us in His death and resurrection.
Liturgically, in the month of November, we remember and pray for, in a special way, all our loved ones and all the holy souls in purgatory, especially for those who have no one to pray for them. Purgatory is a place of purification where souls, who have died in the grace of God and His friendship, but still imperfect, go (CCC 1030). This doctrine was formulated and made clear in the Councils of Florence and Trent (CCC 1031). In praying for the dead, we help to make their time in purgatory short. This is especially done in the Eucharistic liturgy where the priest in participating with Christ, the high priest, brings all of the communion of saints, the saints on earth, the saints in heaven and those who will become saints in purgatory, to God and mediates for them salvation. We can, through our royal priesthood in Baptism actively participate in the liturgy, especially in the part of the Eucharistic prayer where we commemorate the dead:
“Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray. May these, and all who sleep in Christ find in your presence light, happiness and peace” (Eucharistic Prayer 1, the Roman Canon).
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