All Hallow’s Eve is nearPublished 10:36am Wednesday, October 30, 2013
From ghoulies and ghosties, and long-leggedie beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us.
– Prayer from an old Scottish litany
By Rev. Bob Henderson
All ghoulies. ghosties, long-leggedie beasties fairy princesses, super heroes, firemen, police, pirates, ghosts, witches, goblins and other creatures and people are invited, in costume, to Trinity Episcopal Church, 5375 U.S. Highway 231 (across from McDonalds) on Thursday at 6 p.m. to celebrate All Hallow’s Eve.
This brief, “non-spooky” service features a dramatic reading of the story of King Saul and the witch of Endor (I Sam. 28:3-25), prayers and a short talk about the sacred side of All Hallows Eve or Halloween. After the service, supper and a costume parade will be held in Trinity’s Parish Hall.
The name “Halloween,” is a shortened form of All Hallows Eve – “Eve” being the night before a major Christian Feast day, as in “Christmas Eve.” Between 500 A.D and 1500 or 1600 A.D., the eve of many holidays (short for “Holy Days”) celebrating the lives of various Saints were celebrated, sometime with more fervor than the “day” itself.
The feast day following All Hallows Eve is known as All Hallows Day in England – hallow meaning “holy.” In the United States, it is known as All Saints Day.
In the history of the Church, there have been many people who led especially noteworthy and exemplary lives. They are called saints and we celebrate their life and example on particular days like St. Patrick’s Day or St. Francis Day.
However, in 1st and 2nd century Christianity all Christians were known as saints. Thousands and thousands of these “ordinary saints” lived the Christian life and died in the faith, unknown and unheralded. By the 7th Century, All Hallows Day was celebrated as a the day to celebrate and remember all the Hallowed or “Holy” ordinary saints of God, known and unknown.
The feast was also a way to compete with and Christianize existing pagan harvest festivals. “By designating Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 as the ‘Holy Evening’ and Holy Day of All Saints Day, the church sought to give Christians an alternative, spiritually edifying holiday over the pagan festivals and especially to proclaim the supremacy of the [Christian] gospel over pagan superstition.” (Passantino, “What about Halloween?”)
Like Christmas trees and Easter eggs, many Halloween traditions such as masks, tricks, treats, jack-o-lanterns and bobbing for apples, are holdovers from earlier non-Christian traditions, especially those of Celtic Ireland and Scotland.
Continuing these traditions reminds us that in Christ evil has no power over us. We will triumph in Christ, just as all the saints who have gone before us in the faith triumphed.
The early church fathers believed that Satan, in his arrogance, hated and feared our laughter most of all. St. Thomas More said: “The devil, the proud spirit, cannot endure to be mocked.” Martin Luther stated that the devil “is a proud spirit, and cannot endure scorn.”
When we dress up like ghosts, spooks, devils and laugh at them, having fun rather cowering in fear, we show that in Christ and because of Christ, we have nothing to fear from the forces of evil. Evil can’t stand in the face of love and laughter. By celebrating Halloween this way, we proclaim the triumph of the gospel, the church and Christianity over pagan superstition! That’s the message of Halloween; that’s the message of All Saints Day and the message of our All Hallows Eve service.
The public is invited to celebrate this “Eve” with us.
The Rev. Bob Henderson is rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wetumpka.