Month of the Holy Souls (Days 5-6)
November 05, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Day 5

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (25:6a,7-9)

On this mountain the LORD of hosts
     will provide for all peoples.
On this mountain he will destroy
     the veil that veils all peoples,
The web that is woven over all nations;
     he will destroy death forever.
The Lord GOD will wipe away
     the tears from all faces;
The reproach of his people he will remove
     from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.

     On that day it will be said:
"Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!
     This is the LORD for whom we looked;
     let us rejoice and be glad that he has saved us!"

From the Life of his sister St. Macrina by her brother St. Gregory of Nyssa

When day came, it was clear to me from what I saw that this day was to mark her last in the life of the flesh, since the fever had totally spent all her natural, inbuilt strength. She saw our dispirited thinking and tried to bring us out of our despondency by again dispersing the pain of our souls with those beautiful words of hers, but from now on her breathing was shallow and tortured. It was at this moment above all that my soul was torn by what confronted it; on the one hand, my nature was heavy with sadness, as is understandable, in the anticipation that I would no longer hear that voice of hers; but, on the other hand, in so far as I did not yet grasp that the glory of our whole family was going to leave this human life, my soul was divinely inspired, as it were, by the things I saw and I suspected that she had transcended the common nature. For not even in her last breaths to feel anything strange in the expectation of death nor to fear separation from life, but with sublime thinking to philosophise upon what she had chosen for this life, right from the beginning up to her last breath, to me this seemed no longer to be a part of human realities. Instead, it was as if an angel had providentially assumed human form, an angel in whom there was no affinity for, nor attachment to, the life of the flesh, about whom it was not unreasonable that her thinking should remain impassible, since the flesh did not drag it down to its own passions. For this reason she seemed to me to be making manifest to those then present that pure, divine love of the unseen bridegroom, which she had nourished secretly in the most intimate depths of her soul, and she seemed to transmit the desire which was in her heart to rush to the one she longed for, so that freed from the fetters of the body, she might swiftly be with him. For it was really towards her beloved that she ran, and no other of life’s pleasures ever turned her eye to itself away from her beloved.

Most of the day had already passed and the sun was starting to set. Her fervour, however, did not give way, but the more she neared her departure, the more she contemplated the beauty of the bridegroom and longed to rush impulsively to her beloved. She no longer spoke to us who were present, but to that one alone upon whom she held her eyes intently. Her bed had been turned towards the east, and she stopped conversing with us and was with God in prayer for the rest of the time, reaching out her hands in supplication and speaking in a low, faint voice so that we could only just hear what she said. … And as she spoke this prayer, she traced the sign of the cross on her eyes, her mouth and her heart. And little by little her tongue was burned dry by the fever and was no longer able to articulate her words, her voice was wavering and only by the parting of her lips and the movement of her hands did we recognise that she was praying. Meanwhile, evening had come on and a light had been brought in. At once Macrina opened her eyes wide, directed their attention to the gleam of light and made it clear that she also wished to say the evening prayer of thanksgiving; but as her voice failed her, she realised her desire in her heart and in the movement of her hands, her lips moving in time with her inward impulse. When she had completed the prayer of thanksgiving and, by bringing her hand to her face for the sign of the cross, had indicated that she had finished her prayer, she took a strong, deep breath, and with that she died.

Musical Selection

Lord, it belongs not to my care
Whether I die or live;
To love and serve Thee is my share,
And this Thy grace must give.

If life be long, I will be glad,
That I may long obey;
If short, yet why should I be sad
To welcome endless day?

Christ leads me through no darker rooms
Than He went through before;
He that unto God's kingdom comes
Must enter by this door.

Come, Lord, when grace hath made me meet
Thy blessèd face to see;
For if Thy work on earth be sweet
What will Thy glory be!

My knowledge of that life is small,
The eye of faith is dim;
But 'tis enough that Christ knows all,
And I shall be with Him.


O God,

to whom mercy and forgiveness belong,

hear our prayers on behalf of your servants

whom you have called out of this world;

and because they put their hope and trust in you,

command that they be carried safely home to heaven

and come to enjoy your eternal reward.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God for ever and ever. Amen.


Day 6

A reading from the Book of Lamentations (3:17-26)

My soul is deprived of peace,
     I have forgotten what happiness is;
I tell myself my future is lost,
     all that I hoped for from the LORD.
The thought of my homeless poverty
     is wormwood and gall;
Remembering it over and over
     leaves my soul downcast within me.
But I will call this to mind,
     as my reason to have hope:

The favors of the LORD are not exhausted,
     his mercies are not spent;
They are renewed each morning,
     so great is his faithfulness.
My portion is the LORD, says my soul;
     therefore will I hope in him.

Good is the LORD to one who waits for him,
     to the soul that seeks him;
It is good to hope in silence
     for the saving help of the LORD.

From Love and Living by Fr. Thomas Merton

When life and death lose their proper meaning, that is to say, when they are no longer experienced as what they really are, then the awful and empty power of death creeps into everything and sickens everything.  So when death becomes most trivial, it also becomes most pervasive.  It is only “the end of life.”  So all life ends.  All is death.  Why live?

To take death seriously is not, by any means, to seek to avoid it always and at all costs, but to see that it must come as part of a development, as part of a living continuity that has an inner meaning of its own.  Death contributes something decisive to the meaning of life.  Therefore, death does not simply “intervene” or “supervene” and spring upon life as upon its prey, in order to devour it.  To hypostatize death, to give it an objective and autonomous reality of its own, a “power” of its own, and set it over against life, makes death not serious but trivial.  And yet this way of thinking does, in fact, give death a kind of power over life, at least in our own minds.  Thus, we live as if death were always ready to exercise this inescapable power over us.  We take to living mouse lives that are always waiting for the cat, death.   Yet there is no cat, and we are not mice.  If we do, in fact, “die,” it is not because a monster has caught up with us and pounced on us at last.  If we become obsessed with the idea of death hiding and waiting for us in ambush, we are not making death more real but life less real.  Our life is divided against itself.  Death then operates in the midst of life, not the end of life, but rather, as the fear of life.  Death is life afraid to love and trust itself because it is obsessed with its own contingency and its own ending.

But since contingent lives must end – they are not interminable and there is nothing whatever in their constitution that justifies us in thinking that they are – it is important that the end of life itself should finally set the seal upon the giving and the sacrifice which has marked mature and productive living.  Thus, man physically and mentally declines, having given everything that he had to life, to other men, to his love, to his family, and to his world.  He is spent or exhausted, not in the sense that he is merely burned out and gutted by the accumulation of money and power, but because he has given himself totally in love.  There is nothing left now for him to give.  It is now that in a final act he surrenders his life itself.  This is “the end of life,” not in the sense of a termination, but in the sense of a culminating gift, the last free perfect act of love which is at once surrender and acceptance: the surrender of his being into the hands of God, who made it, and the acceptance of the death which in its details and circumstances is perhaps very significantly in continuity with all the acts and incidents of life – its good and its bad, its sins and its love, its conquests and its defeats.  Man’s last gift of himself in death is, then, the acceptance of what he has been and resignation of all final judgment as to the meaning of his life, its worth, its point, its ultimate destiny.  It is the final seal his freedom sets upon the love and the trust with which it has striven to live.

For a Christian, this sublimation of death by freedom and love can only be the result of a free gift of God in which our personal death is united with the mystery of Christ’s death on the cross.  The death of Christ is not simply the juridical payment of an incomprehensible ransom which somehow transformed the sinful death of man into a liberating and victorious death, a supreme act of faith and love, because it also transforms the death of man into an act of glad acceptance and of love which transcends death and carries him over into eternal life with the Risen Christ.

Death is the point at which life, by freely and totally giving itself, enters into this ground and this infinite act of love.  Death is the point at which life can, if we so choose, become perfectly real, not because it “demands to be interminable,” but because it can receive the gift of pure actuality in the love of God, in the Trinitarian life, the circumincession of Persons.  Death is, then the point at which life can attain its pure fulfillment.  Death brings life to its goal.  But the goal is not death – the goal is perfect life.
Musical Selection (Sir Walter Raleigh)
Even such is time, that takes in trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 
And pays us but with earth and dust; 
Who, in the dark and silent grave, 
When we have wandered all our ways, 
Shuts up the story of our days: 
But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 
My God shall raise me up, I trust. 


O God,

who alone can bestow life after death,

deliver your servants from all their sins,

that they, who believed in the resurrection of your Christ,

may be joined with you in glory on the last day.

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

God for ever and ever. Amen.