Justice, peace and joy: the Commemoration of all the faithful departed

As in the Roman liturgical calendar, 2nd November in Jerusalem is also the day dedicated to all the faithful departed: a day offered to remember, bless and thank for the lives of our dear ones but also an introduction to eternal life. 

There are various traditions linked to this day all over the world. In Jerusalem, for the Franciscans of the Custody of the Holy Land and the faithful of the parish of St Saviour, the celebration is traditionally divided into two parts: the Holy Mass in the morning and the visit to the cemeteries of Mount Sion immediately afterwards, following the procession that wides through the streets of the Old City, opened by the Kawas and by the Franciscans, for the blessing of the tombs in the Franciscan cemetery, that of foreigners and that of the deceased Jerusalemites.

Religious men and women, faithful and tourists all took part in the Celebration of the Eucharist in Arabic at the Church of St Saviour in Jerusalem. The parish priest, Fr. Amjad Sabbara, during his comment on the Scriptures, emphasized how St Paul teaches that the Kingdom of God is made up of three fundamental elements. "We are summoned to live here as though it were an anticipation of the Kingdom of God on this earth, sowing justice, peace and joy,” he said. "Jesus teaches us clearly how we must love, that it by giving our life, becoming a real icon of the Kingdom of God and, by doing so, he offers us a yardstick for our sense of justice. We should be men of peace, builders of bridges in our existence and in relations with others, we should hope in  the resurrection and continue to bless everyone, especially our dear ones, even after death, as though they were still with us. This love and this blessing are translated into pure joy for our life, which anticipates the eternal one."

It is a day that is lived with intensity and great participation by the local Catholics of Jerusalem, Beit Hanina, Beit Fage andBeit Safafa in different ways. One of these is the exchange of sweetmeats made from dried fruit, mainly raisins and dates, for all the three days that the cemeteries are open to offer to those who visit the tombs of their loved ones. "The symbol," says Fr. Sabbara, parish priest of Jerusalem and originally from the Old City, “reminds us that our loved ones are already in eternal joy, seated at the great banquet the Scriptures speak of, and we can enjoy for a second the joy that they are now experiencing in the Eternal Kingdom."


Giovanni Malaspina