The month of November is dedicated to the saints and the souls in purgatory. On November 8, we observe the commemoration of all deceased members of the Dominican family. The following text, from a treatise by Saint Cyprian of Carthage, can help us have a proper, Christian view of death.
To us the least and the last how often has it been revealed, how frequently and how plainly has it been commanded for the honor of God, that I should continuously bear witness and publicly preach that we should not mourn for our brothers and sisters who have been freed from this world by the summons of the Lord. We know they are not lost but rather sent ahead to precede those remaining on earth, like those who are setting out on a journey or like those making a sea voyage. We should long to be with them, not loudly lament over them. Nor should we here put on the black clothes of mourning when there they have already donned their white robes, lest we give occasion to the pagans rightly and deservedly to censure us for affirming that our deceased brothers and sisters live with God while we mourn for them as though they were destroyed and lost, and for proclaiming by word and voice that faith which we disprove by the testimony of our heart and soul. We are false to our hope and to our faith. What we say seems to be hypocritical, make-believe, lies. It is not to our advantage to profess virtue by words and to destroy the truth by deeds.
Finally, the apostle Paul rebuked, reprimanded, and condemned those who were sad to excess when he said: We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. He stated that those were excessively sad who had no hope.
Why are we who live in hope, who believe in God, who trust that Christ has suffered for us and risen again, and who remain in Christ and through him and with him rise to life again unwilling to depart from this world or loudly bewail and are sad over the departure of our dear ones as though they were lost? Remember Christ our Lord and God has himself advised and told us: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. If we believe in Christ, if we have faith in his words and promises that we will never die, then with confident joy let us come to Christ, for with him we will always gain the victory and reign.
Even though we die, by death we pass over to immortality. We cannot approach immortal life unless we first depart from this life. This is not a passing away but rather a change and passing over to eternity after the completion of our earthly journey. Who would not hasten to choose what is better? Who would not yearn to be changed and transformed into the likeness of Christ and to arrive more quickly at the dignity of heavenly glory? Listen to Paul the apostle preaching and teaching: Our citizenship is in heaven, and it is from here that we are expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humiliation that it may be conformed to his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.
Let us welcome that day which assigns a dwelling-place to each person, which after taking us from this world and releasing us from earthly snares restores us to paradise and to the kingdom. Who, when travelling in a foreign country, would not hasten to return to their native land? Who, when sailing to rejoin their loved ones, would not long the more ardently for a favorable wind that they might swiftly embrace their dear ones?
We consider paradise our native land. There a great number of our loved ones await us. A large and overflowing crowd of parents, brothers, sisters, and children desire our presence, already sure of their own salvation and now solicitous for ours. Most beloved brothers and sisters, let us ardently long to soon be with them and to very soon come to Christ.
Acknowledgment. Text from the Supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours for the Order of Preachers, Dominican Province of the Philippines (2012).
Young Thomasian Professionals Lay Dominican Group
Santísimo Rosario Parish, University of Santo Tomás
España Boulevard, Manila 1015 Philippines