November for Souls
During autumn, it is fashionable for many Americans to involve themselves with all kinds of thrilling, strange, macabre and scary or wicked Halloween consumer events, including traveling to haunted houses and graveyards- just for fun.
Visiting a graveyard, in silence and reverence, is one of the best ways to reflect on death and eternity and to offer prayers for the souls of those who tread this road before us. You won't find plastic tombstones with catchy fake epithets, velcro spiders, white sheets and such, but reality as it really is.
A Christian cemetery, for example, is not a haunted home of darkness, as the secular world would like us to imagine or believe, but rather sacred ground where we encounter the glorious light, truth and beauty of the Communion of Saints and the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. In the presence of the departed, we are able to recover something of the sacred that has been "snatched out of our hands" in this era of desecration and unbelief.
A Scenic Route
Traveling along the scenic route of The Great River Road in Wisconsin, one of America's official Scenic Byways, a location that you might come across is an old cemetery site. No church or anything- just a plot with grave stones, surrounded by cornfields and a farm house, perhaps, in the distance. Some headstones within are maintained and others are slowly fading away as many families have since dispersed.
While some stones in this cemetery were notably crumbling and abandoned (not unusual), all of these, as a whole, stand as a living testament to each one of us; as a reminder of what lies ahead and the need to conduct ourselves well today, not tomorrow.
There is no fiction in a real cemetery. Guaranteed.
It was a notably short life for some. Nonetheless, it was still a life lived and one that will be or is now celebrated in eternity, that is, if it was lived for God and according to His ways.
Eternity and new life in Christ
This is what we collectively recall during the Month of All Souls.
How we can and should pray for the dead is well defined. Inspired biblical writings, like the Book of Maccabees and others, instruct on these matters. The teachings contained within Maccabees, for example, were the very same teachings that Jesus believed, St Paul believed, the early Christians believed and we still believe today. As well, we can refer to the writings of early church fathers on the subject, such as St Cyril of of Jerusalem, St Jerome, St Augustine; to name a few.
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