A celebration of all the saints
Tuesday saw the commemoration of several events; it was the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba, the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation and, of course, Halloween.
The Halloween tradition grew out of the Celtic feast of Samhain. This festival celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.
It was believed that on that day the dead once more walked the earth.
Lanterns were carved, and treats offered to pacify them. In addition, children were dressed as the undead to avoid being taken by them (apparently the undead are easily confused).
Naturally, part of acting like the undead involved helping oneself to the treats that were offered.
When Christianity arrived, it sought to connect this pagan custom to the gospel.
By the 9th century November 1 was already “All Saints” day. All Saints day was a celebration of all the saints (those who had been sainted by the Catholic Church) who did not have their own feast days.
It was followed by All Souls day (November 2, instituted in the 11th century) which was a festival to remember all the faithful departed.
The day before All Saints day then became a reminder that although there is evil in the world, it is the saints and all the souls of the faithful departed in Christ that prevail because of Christ’s resurrection.
When the reformation came, protestant churches amalgamated All Saints and All Soul’s day into one feast to celebrate all the faithful departed.
This week we have all felt the sting of death as we mourn the passing of Jens Staurup and Patsy Hill. But, we can also rejoice, knowing that we will see them and all those who have died in Christ at the resurrection.
The resurrection reminds us that death has been defeated. As John Donne wrote:
“...One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And Death shall be no more; Death thou shalt die.”
It astounds me that even something as sad as death can be used by God for good. Because God’s power means that death is not the end of life; it is the beginning of eternal life.
For those in Christ, death is the end of pain and suffering and a temporary separation from their sisters and brothers. So, we can cry out with St Paul, ‘Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!’