November 2nd is the commemoration of the Faithful Departed.  For the Roman Catholics, this is a holy day of higher rank, equal (or almost equal?) to All Saints’ Day itself.  The distinction is that All Saints’ Day remembers the Church Triumphant – Saints with a capital S – and All Souls’ Day remembers the Church Expectant – those at rest, awaiting the resurrection on the Last Day.  In Protestant theology, most of us generally don’t make much (if any) distinction between these two groups.  Some might posit that the “Capital S Saints” are enjoying the beatific vision to a greater degree than others among the departed, but I’m not aware of much talk along those lines.

As a result, the All Souls commemoration has typically been rolled into the All Saints commemoration in Anglican practice and piety.

However, there is a good reason for distinguishing these two holy days.  Two analogies present themselves.  The first is in our Prayers of the People in the Communion service: historically the last petition of those Prayers acknowledges both the departed at rest and the saints in glory.  Even if one believes these are not two different groups of people, they are clearly presented to us as two aspects of people.  We remember the Departed in a joyful glorified state and in a mournful “we miss them” sense.  The second analogy is the funeral/Burial service: the interplay between giving thanks and mourning is intricate and (occasionally) controversial.

In the standard Prayers of the People we have now, there is a lovely inclusio wherein you can add the names of the departed to your prayers:

We remember before you all your servants who have departed this life in your faith and fear, especially ___, that your will for them may be fulfilled…

My congregation makes use of this on a regular basis, but if yours does not, this weekend is the perfect opportunity to do so!

One thought on “Remembering the Faithful Departed in the Liturgy

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