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October 25, 2009
All Hallow’s Eve and the Communion of Saints
This week Candia and the surrounding towns will be receiving the children for the annual Trick or Treat visitations. This is a long standing tradition in our culture. We all remember looking forward to this time in order to collect as much candy as possible. As time as gone on there have been more and more costumes that have obscured the origins of the day however. As Christians it is good to remind ourselves of the link between Halloween, All Saints Day and the Communion of Saints.
The actual Halloween traditions go back to the Celtic tribes in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany. They had a custom of celebrating the beginning of the new year and the coming of winter on November 1st. They believed that the spirits of their dead relatives came back to visit them on the eve of November 1.
It was Pope Gregory IV, in 835, who made the move to celebrate All Saints Day to November 1st, ( from its previous date of May 13th), in order to counter the pagan celebrations. The night before Nov. 1 became known as All Hallow’s Eve or “Holy Evening”. Eventually the name was shortened to Halloween. In addition, the church began celebrating All Souls day on November 2nd, thus remembering those who had died, regardless of whether they were saints or not. These two feasts help us to remember that we are united to one another through the Communion Saints.
The Communion of Saints is an expression that is often misunderstood. What the term actually means is that all of us, i.e., the saints, the souls not yet saints and ourselves, are all linked together for better or worse. We cannot live without one another. We, on earth, depend on the goodness, holiness and compassion of the saints. We seek their help interceding for us with the loving God they have seen face to face. The souls, who not yet saints, depend on us to pray for them as they pass through a period of purgation before they are ready to face their God in eternal joy and happiness.
As Christians, we might want to ask ourselves where we stand with respect to this time of the year. Winter is indeed coming. It is getting colder and the darkness comes earlier and earlier. This is symbolic of our spiritual life. We have bright sunny days when all is well and we feel God’s presence in our lives. Then we have the dark and gloomy days when all is depressing and nothing is joy-filled. We don’t feel God’s presence in our lives. We wonder where God is and even wonder if he exists.
For this reason the Church encourages us to celebrate the feast of All Saints Day which is a Holy Day. The Church invites us to remember that we are not alone on this journey. We can lean on the saints for help, for example, and for prayer. As we celebrate Halloween, which has become mostly a secular holiday, think of ways that you and your family can celebrate both the secular and the Christian aspects of the holiday. Go collect the treats but come to church on November 1st and remember the saints as well as your own calling to holiness.
Lorette P. Nault