Today, in Western Christian tradition is All Souls Day. It is the third day of the “triduum of Hallowmass.” Who knew that Halloween was a holy day? The first day of the three, All Hallows Eve, October 31, was a day when early Christians believed that some how the space between this life and the next life was thinner. They would don “masks” to keep former souls from recognizing them. Of course in North America this became “trick or treating” through costumes and pranks and the offering of treats.
The second day was All Saints Day, November 1, which remembers all martyrs and official saints of the church both known and unknown. The third day, All Souls Day, November 2, remembers “all the faithful departed.” In most protestant traditions, these days are lumped together and often celebrated on the first Sunday of November. A google search will give multiple hits on these traditions.
I, being who I am, love this history and the layers that surround these practices both from the Christian tradition and other traditions. What I love most, is the remembering and the giving thanks. Often in the U.S.A. graves are visited on the last weekend in May. I always tried to avoid focusing All Saints on that weekend, because it is also the first three day weekend of the summer and consequently loses some of the religious significance that the first Sunday of November can offer.
Remembering those who have gone before is holy, sacred and spiritual work. The act of remembering is a blessing on those who take the time to laugh, to cry and to tell the story of those who have made a difference in their lives. After thirty plus years of ministry, the list gets longer each year for me. The spaces around those memories grow more tender as I remember, as I grieve and as I smile through tears and give thanks that I have been so blessed by so many.
This Sunday, the church I serve will light 36 candles, will name those who have died this year, will light an extra candle for pregnancy losses and those unnamed, but are carried in the hearts of those who gather. We will say thank you to God for lives who blessed ours and made a difference and we will shed a few tears, sing songs of faith and commit once again to being a saint who makes a difference.
Remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) ,
I am graced to serve.