Sisters and Brothers

This Sunday falls on All Hallows’ Eve or Halloween as it has come to be called. The day before All Saints’ Day on the 1st and All Souls’ Day on the 2nd of November. It ushers in what has become a season of remembrance in the Church with Remembrance Sunday to follow.

In the very early days of the church, Christian martyrs were given a day to mark their martyrdom and so for example, St Stephen’s Day, marking the death of the very first Christian martyr is on the 26th of December, although we more usually call it Boxing Day. Eventually though, there were so many martyrs that we simply ran out of days in the year and so in the 8th century, the 1st of November was declared All Saints’ Day to mark the death of all the martyrs. It was then decided to designate the 2nd of November All Souls’ Day to mark those who had died in the faith. Over the years in various well-meaning sermons, I have heard preachers say that we are all saints and that All Saints’ Day is for everyone. I do believe we are all saints in one meaning of the word, and I do believe that when we sing “For all the Saints, who from their labours rest” we are talking about all those who have gone before us, but I sort of want to reclaim both days, because it is no small thing to have died because of your faith and although we do not usually run that risk in this country, still today there are countries where those who affirm Jesus as Lord are putting themselves at risk.

Perhaps because of Newton’s 3rd law (“For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”) when faced with the celebration of All Saints and All Souls, the ancient Celtic tradition that ghosts returned to earth on the 31st of October before their New Year on the 1st of November, was marked by certain people as a time when the fabric between earth and heaven became thin, and people dressed up to scare off the ghosts or perhaps to confuse them. Who is to say? We are faced with the inevitable march of capitalism which requires that any and every day that can be turned into an opportunity to demand money shall do so and we now have the chocolate consuming, zombie-fest that is today’s Halloween. Like it or loathe it, it is here to stay for the moment, but whether we put up a pumpkin and offer the 6 year-old witch some sweeties, or whether we close our doors and curtains and pretend to be away, let’s take some time this week to remember all those who have gone before us and whose teaching and actions has lit for us the path that leads to Heaven.

God bless, Vicci

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