The convent Church of St. Saviour in Jerusalem was crowed with faithful and religious, gathered to participate in the Solemn Mass, presided over by the Pastor of the parish, Fra Feras Hejazin, and concelebrated by the Custodial Vicar, Fra Artemio Vitóres, as well as other priests.
Masses for the suffrage of the dead were celebrated in all the other religious communities throughout the Holy Land.
After the liturgical celebration, as is tradition, priests, friars and faithful moved in procession towards the Christian cemeteries, upper and lower, located on Mount Zion.
In a climate of deep mediation, accompanied by prayers and songs in Arabic and Latin, the procession made its way through the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem, passing through Jaffa Gate, the Armenian Quarter, to rest, finally, at the Franciscan cemetery the friars of the Custody of the Holy Land are buried, for the blessing of the graves.
The faithful also visited the graves of their loved ones buried in the cemetery below. The families of the deceased prayed at the graves, which they adorned with fresh flowers, while the friars led the prayer and paid homage with incense and singing to the dear souls who have gone before.
In the Canticle of Creatures, Saint Francis refers to death as “Sister Death”. In his admonitions, he often reminded the brothers that on this earth, we are passing through as “pilgrims and strangers.”
Fro this reason, the faithful pray for their dead relatives, trusting their intercession with the Lord, nurturing the hope of one day joining with them to enjoy heavenly bliss in the ranks of the angels and Saints.
In fact, the encounter with death, for those who believe, is not sinking into a dark abyss, but being called to the light of life in its fullness, taking that final step, which allows us to enter into the house of the Lord. It is not the end of our being, but only the end of our earthly lives.
The Solemnity of November 2nd, is the day on which the Church commemorates in a solemn manner the souls of the dead, while reserving, in each daily Mass, a time called “Memento, Domine …”, meaning “Remember, O Lord …” as a universal prayer for the souls of all the dead.
Piety towards the dead dates back to the dawn of humanity. For Christians, funeral art, as that seen in the catacombs, nourished the hope of the faithful. In Rome, one can see in the niches where someone would lay their deceased family member, the figure of Lazarus: As Jesus wept for his friend Lazarus and raised him from the dead, so may he also do for this disciple!
The liturgical commemoration of all the faithful departed, however, took concrete form in the Ninth Century in continuity with the Monastic practice of dedicating a specific day of prayer for the dead, a custom dating back to the Seventh Century.
St. Augustine in his time, praised the practice of praying for the dead, not only on their anniversaries, so that the souls without suffrage were not neglected.