Thursday, October 25, 2012

Reflections on All Hallows, All Saints and All Souls by Bishop Mary Glasspool

From the "Unofficial Letter from Bishop Suffragan Mary D. Glasspool, Volume II, Number 16 [10/19/2012]

In the Church's liturgical year, the word "triduum" refers to a series of three days recognized in connection with one another. The word usually refers to the three days immediately preceding Easter Sunday: Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday - or Easter Eve, on which we celebrate the Great Vigil of Easter.

Many people are familiar with the "Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Eve" triduum. But there is another triduum in the Christian Liturgical Year - another set of three days - that we are not so familiar with - at least, not in its liturgical form. All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day form a fall "triduum" - three days connected to one another with a common theme. The theme is death; and the connection is the Communion of Saints - that same "Communion of Saints" that we confess our belief in every time we say the Creed.

Perhaps you are among the majority of people who do not think All Hallows Eve - or "Halloween" - is of any particular religious significance. Truly, Halloween has become a highly commercialized season of decorations, clever costumes, tricks, treats, parties, and laughter. But the name applied to the evening of October 31, is most definitely derived from the Christian Feast of All Saints, which is also known as "All Hallows". And the observances connected with Halloween, many of which originated among the ancient Druids and Celts, yet have something to do with the theme of death throughout these three days.

There is much laughter around Halloween. We watch, with great amusement, mostly younger people disguise themselves as more traditional ghosts, skeletons, witches, and then the more recent scary things: vampires, Avengers and (aaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!!) Angry Birds. They have parades and parties showing off their costumes, gathering candy, bobbing for apples, and maybe visiting a haunted house.

The ancient Druids believed that on that evening, Saman, the lord of the dead, called forth hosts of evil spirits. The ancient Celts believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their earthly homes on that evening. So the traditions that grew out of these beliefs were for the purposes of warding off the evil spirits, and disguising oneself against the dead.

We laugh, in healthy ways, at the cleverness and creativity of our costumed young people. Yet beneath the surface of this laughter, is the subtle, intuitive sense that we are facing death, and keeping death at bay, at least for the time being.

All Hallows; All Saints; All Souls. In a lighter vein, I call this triduum: "Spooks, Saints, and Souls". They are connected with the theme of death.

If we can step away from the increasing commercialization of All Hallows - Halloween - we might notice that in the carnival celebrations of our ancestors: the Druids, the Celts, and the Mexicans (Día de los Muertos); they used the most powerful weapon in the human arsenal to confront the power of death - the power of humor and ridicule.

The following day, in the commemoration of All Saints, we give witness to the victory of incarnate goodness embodied in the remarkable deeds of remarkable people, who, in their own lives, triumphed over the powers of evil and darkness. And in the commemoration of All Souls, we proclaim the hope of common mortality expressed in our aspirations and expectations of a shared eternity in God's nearer presence with all those we love.

It is hard to look death in the face, and say to death, "I know I'll see you again." But it is even harder to look into the eyes of someone who is dying and say, "I know I'll see you again." That is why we need these three, precious days.

We need them to be reminded about death. Death is a part of life. Maybe we need to be reminded that we're in it together. If our belief in the Communion of Saints is a big gamble; then at least we're taking that gamble with a whole host of others, both past and present.

But most of all, we need these three days to be reminded, when facing our own mortality, that it's God who took the biggest gamble. God bet the farm on one person; and that person, through his life, ministry, death, and Resurrection, showed us, as clearly as can be seen in this life, that death is a part of life; that God does overcome evil; and that love is more powerful than death. It's hard. But it's the truest thing I know.

God’s Peace, +Mary

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