During the recent commemoration of All Souls’ Day on Nov. 2, Catholics take the opportunity to pray for those who have died, especially our beloved family members and friends, and to offer their souls to God. The entire month of November, in fact, is dedicated to remembering these “holy souls” in prayer.
Holy Scripture and our Catholic faith remind us: “It is, therefore, a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins (2 Maccabees 12: 46).” It is our firm belief as Catholics that the Lord Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead offering forgiveness for sin and eternal life to those who believe in him. This is, truly, one of the greatest mysteries and joyful assurances of our faith.
This year, following the celebration of Mass on All Souls’ Day, I traveled with several priests to the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia to hear Bohemian (Czech) composer Gustav Mahler’s (1860-1911) glorious “Symphony No. 2, ‘the Resurrection Symphony’,” performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mahler was born into a Jewish family but converted to Catholicism later in life. His “Resurrection Symphony” is one of my favorite symphonic and choral pieces of music, not simply because of its musical majesty but, more profoundly because of its theme of resurrection and eternal life, a fitting way to celebrate All Souls Day, to be sure.
I have listened to it hundreds of times over the years and I am always struck by the beautiful, consoling words of the chorus, as the symphony draws toward its end. Permit me, please to share them with you here for meditation:
O believe, my heart, O believe:
Nothing to you is lost!
Yours is, yes yours, is what you desired
Yours, what you have loved
What you have fought for!
You were not born for nothing!
Have not for nothing, lived, suffered!
What has risen
must pass away.
What has passed,
Cease from trembling!
Prepare yourself to live!
O Pain, You piercer of all things,
From you, I have been wrested!
O Death, You masterer of all things,
Now, are you conquered!
With wings which I have won for myself,
In love’s fierce striving,
I shall soar upwards
To the light which no eye has penetrated!
Its wing that I won is expanded,
and I fly up.
Die shall I in order to live.
Rise again, yes, rise again,
Will you, my heart, in an instant!
That for which you suffered,
To God will it lead you!
May the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.