I remember as a child during the days before the feasts of All Saints and All Souls, my mother would take us to three cemeteries to decorate the graves of my dad, my grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other family members. We would go to cemeteries in Churchtown, Lowell, and Rainbow, Ohio, and place the chrysanthemum flower tops in the shape of a cross on each of the graves. After decorating each one, we would pause to pray silently, each praying and remembering the person to the extent each knew them. I always had a sense of wondering – what would it have been like to have known my ancestors who had died long before I was around, and what might it be like to meet them again in eternal life? While I had a sense of sadness, I also had a deep sense of gratitude for the gifts my ancestors had passed to us.
At a recent gathering of Sisters and Associates, we listened to a video of Dr. Christopher Pramuk “Will the Circle be Unbroken? Leaning into the Mystery of Resurrection Faith.” He reminded us that it is in the remembering of our loved one that they remain alive and present to us. It is the remembering of those who have been disappeared as they struggled for human rights, that they remain alive and present to their families and to all of us. Dr. Pramuk has much more to say about resurrection faith in relation to racial justice issues. You can see the full text of his talk in the link below. But his words also resonated with me in relation to this feast day as we remember all souls and especially our loved ones.
‘“They are not here” insists the voice of reason. “They aren’t anywhere.” Yet the heart that has known the touch of the beloved persists: “They are here. I can neither see nor touch their body, it is true. But I can feel their presence.”
To say in one breath that the dead are not here, in the earth, this place of burial, may be to suggest in the very next breath that they are here: we simply need to know where to look, and how to listen. Close your eyes, lean into the silence, and listen: the earth itself remembers, the ancient woods reverberate with their songs, touching our highest joy, revealing our deepest sadness.’ (Dr. Christopher Pramuk)
We have so much to celebrate as we lean into the mystery of the resurrection. Today I invite you to spend some time remembering loved ones who have gone before you. We can also take assurance from the reading from 1 Thes 4:13-14 in our morning prayer today, “We want you to be assured, sisters and brothers, about those who have died, so that you do not grieve as do others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too we believe that God, through Jesus, will bring forth with him those who have died.”
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If you would like to read the full text of Dr. Pramuk’s talk, please click here.