It is that time of year again when we are all being haunted by ghoolies and ghosties draped in precarious ways in many yards and commercials inundated with gruesome figures and themes. But what do Anglicans believe about the close of October?
In our tradition, October 31 is All Hallows’ Eve, which is then followed by All Saints’ Day observed on November 1. And the Feast of the Faithful Departed (All Souls’ Day) is recognized on November 2. Together they form a short liturgical season called Hallowtide. These are all important liturgical days but unfortunately many do not give them much thought any longer.
All Saints is the one that gets the most traction for it is still celebrated in many Christian traditions. It is to begin the evening of October 31, All Hollows’ Eve, and runs through the evening of November 1. Traditionally it is a time to remember, honor and celebrate the lives well lived of the many saints that paved the way for the Church today. It is a time to ponder the work of the Holy Spirit as we profess in the Nicene Creed, “I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church”.
Not only is All Saints’ day a time to remember the saints of yester-year it is also a time to contemplate our own inevitable death. As we move deeper into the fall season the days grow shorter and darkness longer, this offers a good opportunity to reflect on how light, literally and figuratively operates within our own lives. Darkness conceals while light exposes what is concealed. As Christians we have been transformed from darkness to light, literally delivered from death and given eternal life. We are to live a life that seeks the light! Scripture tells us that to walk in the light is to have a daily commitment to living out a righteous life. Those who are compelled to walk in the light resist fellowship with the darkness of the devil, the world and the flesh and are now to follow in the footsteps of Christ and the saints that have gone before.
As believers, it is our birthright to walk in the light of Christ. Our spiritual heritage is to help every believer down the path of victory over sin and death where we are no longer slaves to darkness and death but are free to accomplish the work God has given us to do. Paul says it this way, “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 that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
So on this Hallowtide I challenge you to take some time to grapple with the Saints that have gone before and the gratitude we have for the heritage they left behind and the role model they are. And to reflect on what our own death might mean in light of our current birthright. St. Therese of Lisieux before her death is quoted to have said, “I will spend my heaven doing good on earth”. Our own Justin McGee in his July 2021 posted referred to it as; living a Christ “haunted” life, which asks us to join Him in the restoration of all things.
One way to tackle this challenge is to use the following thoughts on what All Saints’ Day is to be about, it is a day to:
“bring death and the dead into the light; to acknowledge loss and move beyond it; to mourn, but not to despair; to regret what needs to be regretted but even more to celebrate what needs to be celebrated; to remember the past and have hope for the future; to see life as a gift and death as a new beginning; to pray for the departed and to ask for the prayers of the saints, remembering that we are all bound together by baptism into the communion of saints, in this life as well as in the life to come” (Full Homely Divinity).
In light of the season, let us join our voices together collectively praying the Collect for All Saints:
Almighty God, who has knit together the elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow the blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys which You have prepared for those who unfeignedly love You: through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN