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All Hallows…

October 29, 2014

High Cross

I find myself reflecting on what is being celebrated this week. This evening, our young kids from the church will go “trick or treating” at the homes of some of our church members. And of course, on Friday, adults and children alike will dress up and go out to get candy and goodies. The arguments about whether Christians should be “celebrating” this holiday have been heard and experienced through my years of ministry in uniform and out of uniform.

The origins of the holy-day are indeed pagan. My Celtic ancestors observed Samhain with bonfires, tales of ghosts and goblins, and felt that the night was particularly “thin”… that the veil between this world and the spirit world was very thin this night. The spirits of the departed would roam and “visit”… apples and gifts were left for these spirits as an offering. And protection was sought from those spirits who were not so “hospitable”.

When the early missionaries came to Celtic Britain, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, they sought to “transform” this holy day from its pagan roots to a Christian witness.  Hallowe ‘en,  became All Hallows Eve, literally All Saints Eve. The focus became a worship service of preparation on the eve before the major festival All Saints Day where the saints of the faith were remembered. The Capital “S” Saints (like Patrick, Andrew, Peter, David, Francis, etc) were remembered, but many of them already had their own special “Saints Day”. It was especially a time when the little “s” saints, those who had departed this life, were remembered. A day to honor the memory of the dearly departed.

So what is happening this weekend? Like many festivals of the church, consumerism and commercialism have taken hold of a perfectly good holy-day and turned it into a money maker. I still enjoy seeing the little children in their costumes and having fun. We get together with friends and hand out candy and enjoy fellowship. However, it dismays me when I see greedy older kids and adults simply out to “get some candy”. Their actions and attitudes leave a sour taste in my mouth.

Why the High Cross (a picture taken during our honeymoon in Ireland) at the top of this blog post? It is a reminder to me of the real meaning of the holiday. It is not about candy and gluttony. Rather, it is about celebrating family, fun, community, and remembering. Remembering the “example of good men and women of old” (a phrase from St Columba’s Blessing)… Saints and saints… who were all simply trying to follow the Lord.

I hope to pause for a moment or more this weekend to remember the “good men and women of old” and perhaps try a bit harder to follow their example as they tried to follow the Lord.

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