For the Northern Hemisphere, the Church’s liturgical year seems to often be in sync with nature – even though we struggle culturally to live that rhythm in the way the Church envisions. The readings we hear proclaimed these past several weeks; the feasts of All Saints and All Souls; the shorter days and longer nights; our secular celebration of Remembrance Day; barren trees; snow – during November, the focus of the Church and the world seems to be on death.
For the past couple of years, the Office of Faith Development has offered several workshops on different aspects of death. Initiated in response to the legalization of Medical Assistance in Dying, they have encouraged conversations that don’t often come easy. We know the issue of Medical Assistance in Dying is a multifaceted one with no easy answers. We also know the Church holds the underlying principle of Choose Life among all others.
The English Diocesan Pastoral Council, under whose direction these initiatives take place, understands the importance of dialoguing about this. One result of the legislation that may have been unexpected, is being forced to think deeply about the complexity of death and dying. “In this world,” Benjamin Franklin said, “nothing can be certain except death and taxes.” Death for everyone is inevitable – a part of life actually, although one that this culture particularly shies away from and yet increasingly wants more control over. We come up with many other words to describe what death is in an attempt to masquerade the event.
Jesus assures us that “not a hair of our heads will perish.” His resurrection proved that life does not end with death. The funeral liturgy celebrates this: life is changed not ended with death; it tells us. Nature attempts to show us this also – particularly here in our part of the world.
Autumn is my favourite season. When I was young, November was my least favourite month – the brilliant colours of fall have faded away, we encounter shortened days, stark landscapes, reappearance of cold, ice, snow – none of it was attractive to me as a child. Despite not minding winter so much – as a child I found much to do, and as an adult I enjoy a good storm curled up with a book in front of my fireplace – it’s precursor, November, is gloomy.
Now I see a different kind of beauty in November, but a beauty all the same. The readings, and the feast days help me to remember those who are no longer present physically in my life, but still loved; the shortened days and colder temperatures help me treasure the conveniences of living in 21st century Canada with central heating and light with the flick of a switch.
Life has taught me autumn will come again: the buds on the trees will appear soon enough, and the cycle of nature will follow as inevitably as the rising and setting sun. Faith has taught me hope: when I die, the cycle of my life won’t be ended, it will merely be lived in a different, eternal way.
Office of Faith Development, Archdiocese of Moncton