All Saints and All Souls – Everyone is Included!
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race…
What’s the saying—“there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes”? This week we had many opportunities to celebrate the first certainty: All Hallows Eve, or “Halloween” on October 31, followed by the Day of the Dead, which encompasses both All Saints Day on November 1st, and the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed, or All Souls’ Day on November 2nd. That’s a lot of celebration, and contemplation.
Each holiday has its own, distinct focus and energy. While our contemporary Halloween celebrations now focus around superheroes, candy, and pumpkins, its history includes pagan rituals to honor the spirits of the dead at a time following the fall harvest. Whereas now we may pass out Snickers bars, ancient “trick or treaters” might have received soul cakes: small, round cakes to honor ancestors. The Christian Church has celebrated All Saints Day since around the 4th century, honoring especially those who were martyred for their faith. The Day of the Dead is a colorful and lively Mexican festival, where altars and foods are created to honor those departed. The celebration of All Soul’s Day was suspended for a time after the Reformation, in protest against the abuses of the Church in charging money for special Masses or Prayers (“indulgences”) to ensure the ascension from purgatory of those who had died. These days, many Catholic and Anglo-Catholic churches honor all the Faithful Departed by remembering the names of all those who have died.
What all of these celebrations have in common is their inclusion! We are celebrating All Souls and All Saints—no one is left out or left behind. In the Apostle’s Creed—which we will recite this Sunday when we baptize three new Christians in our community—we say we believe in the “communion of saints.” For us in the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement, we like to remember the “saints militant (still alive) and saints triumphant (passed on,), as all part of what the Apostle Paul calls the “great cloud of witnesses.” Everyone is included, and that is something to celebrate!
Yours in the Mystery,