Today is the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day). Yesterday, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of all Saints (All Saints’ Day). The mood of yesterday’s liturgy was festive; we prayed in the collect, “we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints.” Today, the Church’s liturgy directs itself to the benefit of all of those who have left this world in the Divine Friendship yet still require purification from their venial sins (the holy souls in purgatory).
If yesterday emphasized life, then today the focus is on death. Aside from the prayers and readings which are proper to today’s commemoration, much of the liturgy today is taken from the Office for the Dead. Presiders have the option of wearing white, black, or violet vestments. Each color emphasizes a different theological truth: white has the obvious connection to the white garments with which a person is clothed at baptism, black symbolizes the human experience of mourning, and purple represents penance and sorrow.
Since most presiders usually wear white, why would I bother speaking about what might seem to be minutia? Because the externals of the liturgy are important. They are an essential part of the service we offer to God. We should not, however, become overly fixated on the externals of liturgy. This runs the risk of remaining on the surface when one should be worshipping from the heart. The Church’s goal in using material objects set aside for worship is congruity–congruity between what the prayers say, the actions performed, and the dispositions of the whole person (especially one’s interiority).
Back to the liturgy today. Traditionally, the Latin Hymn, Dies Irae, is sung today and at funerals. For the a complete history and reflection on this hymn, See Monsignor Campbell’s piece in Homiletic and Pastoral Review.
Without further ado is a Gregorian Chant setting of the Dies Irae.
For those of you who want something a bit more stirring, we have another setting performed by the Symphony Orchestra of New Russia.
Don’t forget pray for the dead today, especially those in your own families.