November–Prayers for the Faithful Departed

O Lord, you have shown me my end,
how short is the length of my days.
Now I know how fleeting is my life.
You have given me a short span of days;
my life is as nothing in your sight.
In you rests all my hope.
O Lord, hear my prayer.
In your house I am a passing guest,
a pilgrim, like all my fathers.
 –Psalm 39

The elderly father of one of our monks used to say, “Life is only a glance out the window.” And the Psalmist laments, “How fleeting is my life.” Notwithstanding our confidence in the Lord’s promise to take us to himself, death remains for each of us a great mystery. Still we believe, and we hope.

Nature helps us. Autumn continues, its transitions subtle and bold, leaves falling and soon blown away. And so we notice the alternations and transitions, the daily “dyings” in our own lives and remember that they are opportunities for hope, opportunities for God, opportunities for his grace.

On All Souls Day we process through the cloisters in the predawn darkness. We pause in the south cloister chanting psalms as the Abbot and his assistants go into the cemetery to sprinkle the graves of our deceased brethren with holy water. We believe that truly for the departed “life is changed, not ended.” They have entered the great mystery of Christ’s resurrection. As we beg the Lord to draw all the faithful departed to himself, we remember our love and our connectedness with all those who have gone before us in faith. We pray for our deceased brethren, relatives, friends and benefactors and look forward to joining them one day in Paradise.