Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Keeping the Feast of All the Saints

Tomorrow night is All Hollows' Eve, commonly called Hallowe'en.  It has been so co-opted by commercial forces in this country that most people have no idea it is actually a Christian holiday. Even many Christians do not realize this, thinking it is some sort of purely pagan event. As with all liturgical "days," All Hallows' (or, All Saints' Day, as we tend to call it now) begins with its eve -- and there's the rub.

The old custom of some slightly non-saintly behavior on this night has been turned into the excuse for a gigantic commercial extravaganza devoid of Christian meaning (sound familiar?), but full of lurid and grotesque imagery--and the opportunity to spend vast sums of money. Indeed, we are told Hallowe'en is now second only to Christmas in the cash-grab department.

In response, some churches have ceded the Feast completely to the culture and turned their back to it. To protect their members (especially the young ones) from contamination, enormous effort is made to put on "Harvest Festivals" instead. Except for the change of season, no mention is normally made of the origins of the holiday.

Though fun and family-oriented, such activities sadly miss the point: at the time of the year when the earth (in our hemisphere) seems to be dying, our faith reminds us that death has no victory. Through New Life in Christ given in Holy Baptism, we are now part of an ongoing communion of saints spanning life in this world and in the next. In an era so full of darkness and cynicism, the message that we are God's saints should not be laid aside or downplayed: it should be celebrated and encouraged.

The Episcopal Church manages to avoid both cultural extremes with regard to Hallowe'en. A certain amount of participation in the "misrule" side of the season is common among us; being a Christian doesn't require a frowning outlook on fun, nor a fearful anxiety when we consider some of the scarier or sillier aspects of life. Yet, the focus remains on the biblical and apostolic truth found in the creeds: we are part of a "great cloud of witnesses" in Christ, and nothing--scary things, our own folly or the folly of others, or even death itself--can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

As with many parishes, St. Timothy's celebrates the Feast of All the Saints this Sunday, marking it with special richness and delight. At the 10 AM service I plan to take some time with the children to unpack this day's meaning. All of this is so we might keep the feast, not trivialize it or be scared of it. Such is the character of a mature, unafraid faith.

Autumn comes and goes each year; the truth of our Faith is eternal. Come, let us celebrate the Feast of All the Saints together.

Faithfully in Christ,


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