Part of this post was written three years ago. Our culture doesn’t know much about Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Some of what is shared in the next three paragraphs are from that blog, but I end with some new thoughts about this early church tradition.
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.
The holiness of these moments become more sacred in the midst of a time of great anxiety and fear. Next week, will be an election which has been filled with bigotry, hatred, lies and ugliness from both sides. The fear mongering has been almost overwhelming. Many, myself included, will be glad when the election is over.
Add to that another horrible shooting in Des Moines where two police officers were ambushed, another black church is vandalized, and where the deaths in Syria mount, is it any wonder that many are just tired and afraid. It is important in times like these, to remember the saints and souls and spirits who went before us. We are NOT living in the first period of time fraught with fear and anxiety.
Those who went before us lived through wars and rumors of war, violence, hatred and natural disasters. The early Christians were persecuted and wondered if the end of the world was coming. In these days, we are hearing the same from both parties. Neither is speaking the whole truth. These elections and difficulties are part and parcel of being part of this world. The saints that have gone on before us, understood that whatever occurs day in and day out is not the kingdom of God. The reign God continues to challenge all of us “saints” to live lives of faith, of hope, of love and justice.
We keep eyes and hearts and spirits focused on the promise that the time is coming when we will experience something new and wonderous. In the meantime, we lean into each other for strength, and trust God’s Spirit to help us believe and God will make all things new in God’s own time.
And so, remembering I am “surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) , these saints and souls of God, I am graced to serve.