minima maxima sunt

The Small things are the Great things; as in a grain of mustard seed.

Archive for the tag “Purgatory”


November kicks off with the feast of All Saints and follows with All Souls. I used the “Dia de los Muertos” as a theme. One of my favorite holidays, as a child and to this day, is Halloween. But All Hallows’ Eve, is really just the beginning of a multi day holiday which sadly has lost its connection to the “dear departed”.
In Catholic tradition, dressing up and giving treats, “soul cakes”, goes back about a thousand years; remembering saints days goes back to the first martyrs and as this calendar shows they are still remembered.  The Day of the Dead also has ancient roots in pre-Colombian indigenous Mexican cultures. Remembering the dead, praying for the dead, setting altars or candles at grave sites, reciting the names of saints or church members who have past away in the last year, writing the names of the departed in a book of the dead, are some of the ways the holiday is still practiced.

Sugar sculls “Calaveras” are given to children and left at grave sites in “Day of the Dead” traditions. Sculls are a common symbol in Catholic art and iconography and are found in Aztec, Mayan and Toltec traditions as well. I still remember staying up late on the weekends as a kid to watch “Fright Night” which was a late night show that played horror movies. The opening was a green spooky skull.
La Catarina is a popular image of Death in Mexico and a common costume when celebrating the Day of the Dead. This was my first attempt at a human figure in the book. Had to re work a few times. Being a hacker has its limits, but I do plan on doing some more human figures in the book so I guess this was a good place to start. There was also some intent here as the liturgical year closes at the end of November and begins with Advent which starts four weeks before Christmas during the last days of November.

Omnium Fidelium Defunctorum

Purgatory from Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry

The Feast of All Souls follows All Saints day and like All Saints it speak about the mystery of the Church; that it is something bigger than what we understand. The Communion of Saints is a consideration of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church, and places us face to face with the reality that even the universe is too small a place for the church.

In Catholic teaching the church is made up of the those who are in heaven, those who are on earth and also those who are in a state of purification which in the west we have termed as Purgatory. The Church triumphant, militant and suffering, all make up what is known as the Mystical Body of Christ.

As such the Feast of All Souls is about the church suffering. The Feast is also called the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. On this day we remember all who have left us and offer prayers for those who are in Purgatory. Further it sets the tone for the rest of the month as November is a month devoted to praying for those in Purgatory. On All Souls day a person can obtain two plenary indulgences; one for visiting a church and one for visiting a cemetery which benefit those in purgatory. Along with these, prayers can be offered, candles lit in remembrance, and sometimes cemeteries will be open and provide candles for honoring the dear departed.

Day of the Dead celebration

In some countries the feast is a much larger affair than in the U.S. For instance, in Mexico the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) is a national holiday. Held on All Saints and All Souls, there are parades and celebrations, people wear masks of the dead which are brilliantly decorated and will make altars with pictures, and candles to remember a lost loved one.

Other traditions are the making and distributing of Soul Cakes, which originated in Brittain in the Middle Ages. The Cakes, or Cookies were given to children, and would represent prayers for the dead or souls being freed from purgatory.

The 60’s folk group Peter Paul and Mary recorded a song based on an old rhyme for soul cakes, called “A’ Soalin”

Soul, soul, a soul cake!
I pray thee, good missus, a soul cake!
One for Peter, two for Paul,
Three for Him what made us all!
Soul cake, soul cake, please good missus, a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, or a cherry, any good thing to make us all merry.
One for Peter, two for Paul, and three for Him who made us all.

Gravesites decorated on All Souls Day

This may help to explain a little of the origins of modern Halloween with it’s masquerade and treat giving. But the bigger picture in all of this is an idea about the church and it’s completeness. The Mystical Body of Christ as an organism, a single body which prays beyond the boundaries of life and death. It speaks of the privilege and responsibility to intercede not only for the welfare of the living but also of the dead, and also explains that heaven will not just be a matter of clouds and harps, but that even the Saint in Heaven will continue to participate in the Body of Christ through prayer.

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