Image Source: Salt and Light.
Today is All Souls' Day, when Catholics and other Christians celebrate the souls of the faithful departed. Salt and Life blog summarizes the meaning of this feast:
All Souls follows the carnival of the dead in October, when unsettled and unforgiven spirits are freed to bewitch and unnerve, to drag away unsuspecting people and seduce them with the pleasures of the world and ensnare them in purgatorial diversions. What follows Hallowe'en's excesses is the celebration of All Saints on 1st November. And then on the 2nd of November, All Souls, a renewal of perspective, a pulling together, a recollection of what really matters.All Souls are our family and relatives, our neighbors and friends, our ancestors, that “cloud of witnesses” who accepted the godly realism of their lives, shared it with others already on earth, and continue to do so now before the throne of the Lamb in heaven. For this reason, they are truly blessed, and give us a reason to hope, to believe, to struggle and to live. The feast of All Souls and the month of November is a source of consolation for each of us.
The Christian feasts incorporated pre-Christian holidays, creating a yearly calendar that is a moral and psychological journey, bound up with the cycles of nature. Just as it is normal to go through periods of self-doubt, to lose one's way, it is natural, having found a new path, to experience a sense of renewed direction and purpose.
While this psychological journey is represented in other religions, the central challenge of the Christian tradition has always incorporated a tension between the individual and the collective. The historically Christian societies seek to resolve this central paradox: how can one battle to achieve the greater good in individualistic societies, which abhor an all-dominant collective? Which comes first: the individual or the community?
If Hallowe'en is a voyage into the excesses of the self, then All Souls is a reminder that there is a departed, silent collective, whose journey was somehow victorious. These souls still bear witness on the living. Even from a non-Christian or secular perspective, the symbolic message of such a journey is epic and compelling. Will the ghosts of 107 billion people bring counsel to those who are living stewards of reality?