The day of the dead, remembering and praying for those beyond the grave


By Héritier Mesa

From October 31 to November 2, people around the world gather in small or big, religious celebrations to pray for and remember their loved ones, friends and family members who have died.  To pray for and to remember are thus two verbs here which now define our relationship with the one who once was one of us. In fact, these two verbs will accompany us later on along this article.

In just about one month ago— while coming back from school— we were discussing with our Brother Martin and two other brothers about eschatology; that is what happens to individual people at the end of their lives here on earth. The first idea that came in our mind then was the Sunday’s reading for the night prayer in the Divine Office. There Revelation 22: 4-5 reads “They will see the Lord face to face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. It will never be night again and they will not need lamplight or sunlight, because the Lord God will be shining on them. They will reign forever and ever.” This indeed is an outstanding summary of our Christian faith on the afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. Yet, intellectually speaking it is not an easy issue to comprehend such a difficult theological statement. I remember very well Martin saying that there are realities that one understands well only with enlightened eyes, meaning that we will fully understand this eschatological reality only when we will take part of it, when we will be free from the corruption of the limitations of this world.  Seeing Martin one month later in his coffin, I could not help but think: Oh Martin, now you know!   What exactly does he know? And in return, what exactly do we know?

Our Christian faith is built upon a very strong belief on the resurrection of the dead.  Already in the ancient time, the concept of Yahweh bringing the dead to life and the specific image of the resurrection of the dead were part of the Jewish religious imagination[1], and could easily be found in other various religious traditions as well. The novelty of the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead is that the person is not brought back in his old life here on earth at the image of Lazarus or the little girl of Jairus; which, in either case, would definitively die at the end. The Christian resurrection of the dead is to be understood as an eschatological reality. That is the ultimate destiny of those who love and believe in God. Just as Christ rose from the dead, Christians raise from the dead to God.

Day of the deadWe believe that life does not cease with death. A person is not irremediably turn off as a broken-down computer after its life—to use here an expression of Stephen Hawking.  Indeed, there is much more in this life to suggest that there is an ultimate destiny even when this reality fades away. Besides, this has a profound meaning, viewed in a Christian perspective. Jesus tells us that he who believes in him shall not die, and even if he dies he will live. (John 11: 25) Indeed, as would say Bossuet, the French preacher of the 17th Century, “He who believes in him is already living with a spiritual and interior life, living by the life of grace that draws after it the life of glory. But the body is nevertheless subject to death!”[2] We believe that a life dedicated to the faith in Christ is a seed planted in Christians that leads to a life of intimacy with Christ at the end of this relatively short life here on earth. After his/her death, a Christian person will certainly not come back to his/her old way of life among his/her relatives. However, the seed of the eternal truth, that is the word of God planted in him/her, leads him/her to the fullness of life, yet a different kind of life in the intimacy of the presence of Christ. Here the analogy of the light of the book of Revelation brings a richly remarkable argument. Ultimately, there is the fulfillment of Christian destiny after death: the union of Human with God, the creature with the Creator.

As for us, who knew and love those dear souls back to God, we remain not less in an intimate relationship with them after their death. While our senses might definitely not perceive them again, we nevertheless remain in a relationship with them, which we will here define as a spiritual relationship.  That is why we always remember them in a very special way.  For, in such way, we express our love, care, and fidelity to those we have loved and who are ever present in our hearts. And since they are in the presence of God, is there better way to communicate with them than prayer?   Praying for them, we not only ensure for the spiritual welfare of their souls, but, more importantly, we establish a communication channel with those who are henceforth in the presence of God.

[1] See Thomas P. Rausch, Who is Jesus? Introduction to Christology (Claretian publications, Quezon City: 2004), 112.

One Comment:

  1. Very nice thought on the eschatological framework and life everlasting…May Martin intercede for us all.

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