On November 2, after celebrating the feast of All Saints on November 1, the Church prays for all who, in the purifying suffering of Purgatory, await the day they will join in heavenly glory.
All Souls’ Day was originally was celebrated in the Easter season, around Pentecost Sunday, and still is in the Eastern Catholic Churches. By the 10th century, the celebration had been moved to October. Sometime between 998 and 1030, St. Odilo of Cluny decreed that it should be celebrated on November 2 in all of the monasteries of his Benedictine congregation. Over the next two centuries, other Benedictines and the Carthusians began to celebrate it in their monasteries as well, and soon it spread to the entire Church.
Interestingly, this feast has no specific readings assigned to it. Pastoral judgment allows us to choose from a wide selection of readings for the Masses of the Dead. The readings that appear here are those that are listed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as the readings for this celebration.
1st Reading – Wisdom 3:1-9
The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the LORD shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
This passage is taken from a section of the Book of Wisdom that is sometimes called “The Book of Eschatology,” because it addresses the last or final things: death, judgment, reward, and punishment.
The passage we read today is a poetic description of the reward that awaits the just in the afterlife.