Month of the Holy Souls (Day 24)
November 24, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Day 24

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Philippians (3:20-21)

Our citizenship is in heaven,
     and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
He will change our lowly body
     to conform with his glorified Body
     by the power that enables him also
     to bring all things into subjection to himself.

From A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand.

Unless, of course, you can literally believe all that stuff about family reunions 'on the further shore,' pictured in entirely earthly terms. But that is all unscriptural, all out of bad hymns and lithographs. There's not a word of it in the Bible. And it rings false. We know it couldn't be like that. Reality never repeats. The exact same thing is never taken away and given back. How well the spiritualists bait their hook! 'Things on this side are not so different after all.' There are cigars in Heaven. For that is what we should all like. The happy past restored.

And that, just that, is what I cry out for, with mad, midnight endearments and entreaties spoken into the empty air.

And poor C. quotes to me, 'Do not mourn like those that have no hope.' It astonishes me, the way we are invited to apply to ourselves words so obviously addressed to our betters. What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to 'glorify God and enjoy Him forever.' A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild.

They tell me H. is happy now, they tell me she is at peace. What makes them so sure of this? I don't mean that I fear the worst of all. Nearly her last words were, 'I am at peace with God.' She had not always been. And she never lied. And she wasn't easily deceived, least of all, in her own favor. I don't mean that. But why are they so sure that all anguish ends with death? More than half the Christian world, and millions in the East, believe otherwise. How do they know she is 'at rest?' Why should the separation (if nothing else) which so agonizes the lover who is left behind be painless to the lover who departs?

'Because she is in God's hands.' But if so, she was in God's hands all the time, and I have seen what they did to her here. Do they suddenly become gentler to us the moment we are out of the body? And if so, why? If God's goodness is inconsistent with hurting us, then either God is not good or there is no God: for in the only life we know He hurts us beyond our worst fears and beyond all we can imagine. If it is consistent with hurting us, then He may hurt us after death as unendurably as before it.

Sometimes it is hard not to say, 'God forgive God.' Sometimes it is hard to say so much. But if our faith is true, He didn't. He crucified Him.

Come, what do we gain by evasions? We are under the harrow and can't escape. Reality, looked at steadily, is unbearable. And how or why did such a reality blossom (or fester) here and there into the terrible phenomenon called consciousness? Why did it produce things like us who can see it and, seeing it, recoil in loathing? Who (stranger still) want to see it and take pains to find it out, even when no need compels them and even though the sight of it makes an incurable ulcer in their hearts? People like H. herself, who would have truth at any price.

If H. 'is not,' then she never was. I mistook a cloud of atoms for a person. There aren't, and never were, any people. Death only reveals the vacuity that was always there. What we call the living are simply those who have not yet been unmasked. All equally bankrupt, but some not yet declared.

But this must be nonsense; vacuity revealed to whom? Bankruptcy declared to whom? To other boxes of fireworks or clouds of atoms. I will never believe — more strictly I can't believe — that one set of physical events could be, or make, a mistake about other sets.

Musical Selection (Orthodox Liturgy)

Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your statutes. 
The choir of the saints has found the fountain of life and the door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance, I am the sheep that was lost, call me up to You, O Savior, and save me.
You who did fashion me of old out of nothingness, and with Your Image Divine did honor me; but because of the transgressions of Your commandments, did return me again to the earth from whence I was taken; lead me back to be refashioned into that ancient beauty of Your likeness.
I am the image of Your unutterable glory, though I bear the scars of my stumblings. Have compassion upon me, the work of Your hands, O sovereign Lord, and cleanse me through Your loving-kindness; and the homeland of my heart’s desire bestow on me, by making me a citizen of Paradise.
Give rest O God... to the souls of Your servants, and appoint for them a place in Paradise; where the choirs of the saints, O Lord, and the just will shine forth like stars; to Your servants that are sleeping now give rest, overlooking all their offenses. 
Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. 
The triune radiance of the One Godhead with reverent songs acclaiming, let us cry; Holy are You, O eternal Father, and Son also eternal, and Spirit Divine; shine with Your light on us who with faith adore You, and from the eternal fire rescue us. 
Now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen. 
Hail, O gracious Lady, who in the flesh bears God for salvation of all; and through whom the human race has found salvation; through You may we find Paradise, Theotokos, our Lady pure and blessed. 
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia; Glory to You, our God. (3x)



God, our Creator and Redeemer,

by your power your only Son has conquered death

and has passed from this world into your kingdom.

Grant that your servants

may share his triumph over death

and enjoy for ever the vision of your glory.

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.