November is called the month of All Souls. More recently, it has been called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. Can you tell us more about this feast and the remembrances of this month?
November 2nd, the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, dovetails with November 1st, the feast of All Saints. The saints, our models of Christian living, are one with God in heaven. All the faithful departed are those who have died with hope and trust in a loving God who calls us to greater growth and development, even beyond death. This growth and development occurs in a state of being that we have traditionally called purgatory.
While the Western Church has emphasized the cleansing and purifying nature of purgatory, the Eastern Orthodox Church has emphasized the growth and development aspect of it. Today, belief in purgatory allows one who has died in Christ to continue growing and developing before meeting God face to face. God continually invites communion with these loved ones, but some feel the need to continue growing and developing before entering into full communion with God.
These November feasts vividly remind us of the rich reality known as the communion of saints. This belief stresses the strong affirmation that the church is always one in Christ. Death does not sever any of the bonds that unite us in Christ. That is why it is a fitting practice to pray for the dead and to ask them to pray for us. Just as we do that for each other when we are alive, so, too, do we continue that bond and concern for each other even beyond death.