Two big events took place this past week. Can you name them? Halloween on Wednesday, and All Saints’ Day on Thursday. Did you know that both are really interconnected?
Halloween takes its name from All Hallows Eve, though its origins are pre-Christian and probably go back to the ancient Druids who, with ceremonial fires and legendary visits of ghosts and gremlins, marked the first day of winter on November 1st. Others hold that people in the Middle Ages believed that the souls of the dead came back and celebrated through the town on the night before All Saints’ Day.
Currently, the Day of the Dead understanding of All Souls’ Day is growing in popularity in the United States. The Day of the Dead or Día de Muertos is a public Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico, in particular the Central and South regions, and by people of Mexican heritage elsewhere. The multi-day holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember their friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.
Traditions connected with the holiday include building private altars, honoring the deceased using calaveras (depictions of human skulls), Aztec marigold flowers, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, as well as visiting graves with these as gifts.
It seems that often Holy Days and Holidays get confused in our world. When culture transforms a holy day into a holiday, it almost always manages to focus on the wrong side of the equation and the focus or purpose of the holy day is often lost or forgotten.
For example, the number of shopping days left until Christmas is really not as important as the 12 day period between the Christmas Day miracle and the season of Epiphany. This is the real Christmas season but the 12 days of Christmas has seemingly been lost. Another example is the huge party, Mardi Gras, on Fat Tuesday. This is really not as important as the forty days of introspection in Lent that follows, leading to the Easter event celebration. So while the world is recovering from a spooky, kooky All Hallow’s Eve candy overdose, Halloween is really not as important as is the celebrations it fronts for All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days which are really overlooked in our society.
Traditionally, November 1st, All Saints’ Day commemorates the faithful, who, according to the church, have achieved heavenly status. While November 2nd is considered to be All Souls’ Day and is a day to pray for family members and the unsung saints of the world.
Today we stand on the shoulders of ancestors in the faith – those who have gone before us – some good, some bad, and some ugly. Moses, Ruth, Esther, Abraham and Sarah, Mary and Joseph and Jesus. The disciples, Paul and Stephen, Theresa of Avila, Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Martin Luther, Antoinette Brown, John Calvin, Martin Luther King, Junior, Rosa Parks, your grandparents, your parents. Not a brief list, to be sure. And isn’t it true, the more we know someone, the less likely we are to call them a saint.
I was reading Falling Upward on Friday night for this morning’s Adult Conversation group, and came across this passage that fits beautifully this morning. Coincidence? I think not. As a friend once said, there are no coincidences – only God-incidences.
Richard Rohr wrote: “I have sometimes wondered if we might be surprised and disappointed by what it means that our faith is ‘built on the faith of the apostles,’ as we have so proudly sung and proclaimed. They barely ever got the point and seem as thoroughly foolish as we are; but God still used them because like all of us they were little children too. I indeed share in this very faith. We are all and forever beginners in the journey toward God and truth.” (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward, 2011.) Yes, we are all and forever beginners – children – in the journey toward God and truth.
No matter our age, our own unique spiritual journey is always unfolding before us and each step brings with it a new awareness toward God and truth. As we experience the NOW of our spiritual journey (unique to us from childhood to the present) we look forward to the possibility of what’s next, and we also look back since there continues to be an eagerness of living generations to stay connected to past generations, both in prayers and practices because past generations still had something to offer the present generation. We all have common ancestors in the faith and personal knowledge of saints. While I don’t consider my grandmother a saint, her nightly habit of saying her prayers aloud in her room had a significant impact on my spiritual growth and impacts me still today.
I found it interesting this past Thursday as seven of us gathered for the Brown Bag Lunch that when Aletta had passed photos around of past church members – their names arose from the table as if in prayer and thanksgiving for their presence with us at First Christian Church. While in the midst of this time someone remembered that Thursday was indeed All Saints’ Day. Another coincidence? I think not.
I invite you to come forward with whatever you have brought and place these items on the table. Speak into the mic only their names and relationship to you. Please, no other comments at this time, but I do hope you share some stories with each other at coffee hour.) We will finish with Litany of the Saints and 23rd Psalm.
Litany of the Saints – John Becker
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord have mercy. All you holy people, stay with us. Yeshua and Magdalene, stay with us. All the Desert Mothers, stay with us. All the Desert Fathers, stay with us. Hildegard of Bingen, stay with us. St. John of the Cross, stay with us. Teresa of Avila, stay with us. All you holy people, stay with us. Buddha and Mohammed, stay with us. Lao-tzu and Chief Seattle, stay with us. Francis of Assisi, stay with us. Teilhard and Yogananda, stay with us. William Blake & Gandhi, stay with us. Rumi & Schweitzer, stay with us. Anne Frank &Bonhoeffer, stay with us. All you holy people, stay with us. Father Romero, stay with us. Abraham Heschel, stay with us. Mother Teresa, stay with us. Thomas Merton, stay with us. Dorothy Day, stay with us. Thomas Keating, stay with us. All you holy people stay with us.
Copyright DMC 2018