In praying for the dead, the Church above all contemplates the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, who obtains salvation and eternal life for us through his Cross.
Thus with St Odilo we can ceaselessly repeat: “The Cross is my refuge, my way and my life…. The Cross is my invincible weapon. The Cross repels all evil The Cross dispels the darkness”. The Lord’s Cross reminds us that all life is illumined by the light of Easter and that no situation is totally lost, for Christ conquered death and opened the way for us to true life. Redemption “is brought about in the sacrifice of Christ, by which man redeems the debt of sin and is reconciled to God”.
Our hope is founded on Christ’s sacrifice. His Resurrection inaugurates the “end of the times”. The belief in eternal life which we profess in the Creed is an invitation to the joyful hope of seeing God face to face. To believe in the resurrection of the flesh is to recognize that there is a final end, an ultimate goal for all human life, “which so satisfies man’s appetite that nothing else is left for him to desire”.
This same desire is wonderfully expressed by St Augustine: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you”. Thus, we are all called to live with Christ, seated at the right hand of the Father, and to contemplate the Holy Trinity, for “God is the principal object of Christian hope”; we can say with Job: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold and not another”.
Let us also remember that the Mystical Body of Christ is waiting to be reunited at the end of history, when all its members will be in perfect beatitude and God will be all in all. In fact, the Church hopes for the eternal salvation of all her children and of all mankind.
“We believe that the Church is necessary to salvation, for Christ is the one mediator and way of salvation and he becomes present to us in his Body which is the Church, but the divine design of salvation embraces all men. Those indeed who are in ignorance of Christ’s Gospel and of his Church through no fault of their own, who search for God in sincerity of heart, and who, acting according to conscience, strive under the influence of grace to fulfil his will, belong to his people, even though in a way we cannot see, and can obtain eternal salvation. Their number is known only to God” (Paul VI).
While waiting for death to be overcome once and for all, “some of the disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory”, contemplating the Trinity in full light. Joined to the merits of the saints, our fraternal prayer comes to the aid of those who await the beatific vision.
Intercession for the dead, just as the life of those living according to the divine commandments, obtains the merits that serve the full attainment of salvation. It is an expression of the fraternal charity of the one family of God, by which “we are faithful to the Church’s deepest vocation” (Lumen gentium): “to save souls who will love God eternally” (Therese of Lisieux). For the souls in purgatory, waiting for eternal happiness and for meeting the Beloved is a source of suffering, because of the punishment due to sin which separates them from God. But there is also the certitude that once the time of purification is over, the soul will go to meet the One it desires.