This week sees a lot of Christian Festivals. On 31st October there is All Hallows Eve. The 1st November sees All Saints Day and then the 2nd is All Souls Day.
All of these days remember and celebrate those who have gone before and are now in light eternal.
31st October is, of course, best known as Halloween. If you break the word apart you get Hallow and E'en. This is a shortening of All Hallow Eve. Hallows are those who are made holy and so 31st October sits as a day of waiting and preparation for All Saints Day.
This might be news to the superheroes and horror characters running around the streets in pursuit of sweet treats. I am not going to decry our modern celebration of Halloween, the traditions behind it are ancient. But we might want to ask ourselves whether things have tipped towards a society which finds depictions of untimely death and violence an amusement, rather than something deeply disturbing.
The roots of Halloween were to remember friends and family and to avoid evil. There were food traditions and costume traditions to ward off spirits or to dress up to avoid them. There was not a revelling in evil, but a fear of it, however foreign some beliefs are to us. What is our response to evil in the world? How can we bring about change to hearts and minds?
All Saints Day is a commemoration of those who have finished their earthly journey with Christ and are now in eternal rest. We often remember those who have, in some way, stood out from the crowd in their lives and actions. These are the upper case or capital letter "S" Saints. The lower case "s" is used much as St. Paul used it in his letters where he addressed "to the saints in...."
At Redeemer we celebrate All Saints in the morning and then, in the evening we have a service of remembrance which is in line with All Souls. All Souls is a much newer feast day, well is it from the 10th Century which in Church calendar terms is pretty recent! Because All Saints and All Souls usually fall during the week we use the Sunday afterwards for our big community celebration.
All Souls gives us the chance to remember those we love but see no longer and to read out the list of names of those who have died during the previous year and of those whom parishioners want to remember (the necrology). We do it this way because putting All Saints and All Souls in the same service is a big change in emotion - it is real, but going from a triumphant procession of celebration to sadness and grief is a big swing. Many people also do not feel that they can cry or get upset at the main service - this is not true, of course, but providing an evening alternative gives a space which many find safer to express themselves.
This year our evening service will be Choral Evensong, which will provide a meditative setting for the remembrances.
Have a blessed All Saintstide. Shine as a light and find light in our world.