This coming Wednesday, November 1st is the holy day (“holiday”) known as All Saint’s Day. If you’re apprehensive to celebrate Halloween because you think it evil or secular, still consider All Saint’s Day! It would be a great opportunity to have some good, clean fun and to enjoy formative conversation and meaningful connections as a family.
But first, a tiny bit of context.
All Saint’s Day is actually just one of three consecutive days in the Church Calendar known as “Hallowtide:”
- Halloween (“All Hallow’s Eve”) is October 31. On this day, we think of the Church Militant. That’s us! We are still on earth running our leg of the Christian relay race in history, doing our best to faithfully fight the good fight. Maybe I’ll write about Halloween someday encouraging families to celebrate it. There’s a strong case to be made for its Christian roots and I’m a big believer in not allowing Christian things to be co-opted for secular purposes. Instead, we should fully embrace them and teach what they’re really about. Also, it’s interesting how all the spookiness of ghosts and skeletons and the like can help us to contemplate our mortality. Since our souls are eternal, then death is the separation of a soul from its body. There’s SO much more to say about this, but I’ll leave it at that for now.
- All Saint’s Day is November 1. On this day, we think of the Church Triumphant– those who have already ran their leg of the Christian relay race and are now a part of the great cloud of witnesses still cheering us, the Church Militant, on. They fought the good fight of faith, finished well, and are in heaven with God. While more alive than we are, it’s important to note that their souls are in heaven but their bodies will not be until the end of all things. Additionally, while some saints have their own feast day throughout the year, meaning that The Church definitively claims that person to be in heaven, All Saints Day is the day that we recognize there are MANY souls in heaven- some that we know of and many that we don’t.
- And lastly, All Soul’s Day is November 2 when think of the Church Suffering– the holy souls in purgatory. I’m not going to make a case for or against purgatory here. I’m just relaying that this is traditionally a day on the Church Calendar and completes the three days of Hallowtide.
I love that Hallowtide teaches and reminds us that Christ has only one body and that Christians are connected throughout time and space. Not even death separates us because of The Resurrection.
But let’s zero in on All Saint’s Day, because, even if you can’t get behind the idea of Halloween (because evil, scary, death, and sometimes naked) or All Soul’s Day (because purgatory), you ought to be able to get behind the idea of All Saint’s Day. And there’s a scene from Harry Potter that I think illustrates my point perfectly. Unfortunately, if you need convincing to celebrate any part of Hallowtide, then chances are you will not find much merit in a Harry Potter reference, but here we go anyway.
But first, a story: A few years back, my dad got the opportunity to visit London and tour the life of John Wesley. Cool enough on its own, but it gets better. While there, he sent a picture of himself sitting in the Great Hall of Christ Church College on the University of Oxford campus with a caption about it being where John Wesley did something or other and blah blah blah because we were all like
“NEVER MIND JOHN WESLEY, DAD! THAT IS WHERE HARRY POTTER EATS HIS MEALS!!!”
But I digress.
Every All Saint’s Day, I’m reminded of this scene in the last Harry Potter installment:
Do you know the one I mean? Remember it?
HUGE Spoiler Alert (but it’s not like Harry Potter is new): Harry has just found out, via Snape’s memories, that he is a Horcrux and that Voldemort must kill him if Voldemort is to be defeated and everyone else is to live. So he courageously marches out to the Forbidden Forest to give himself up. (All the tearful feels!) On his way, he pulls out the Resurrection Stone (sound familiar?) and the spirits of his parents, James and Lily, and their best friends, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin (all of whom died fighting for the cause) appear. A great cloud of witnesses surround him.
Lily: “You’ve been so brave, sweetheart.”
Harry: “Why are you here? All of you.”
Lily: “We never left.”
Harry to Sirius: “Does it hurt…dying?”
Sirius: “Quicker than falling asleep.”
James: “You’re nearly there, son.”
Harry: “I’m sorry. I never wanted any of you to die for me.”
Then, turning to Lupin, Harry continues: “And Remus, your son.”
Lupin: “Others will tell him what his mother and father died for. One day, he’ll understand.”
Harry: “You’ll stay with me.”
James: “Until the end.”
Harry: “And he (Voldemort) won’t be able to see you.”
Harry: “Stay close to me.”
And with that, Harry drops the Resurrection Stone and turns to face his death.
You see? They congratulate Harry for his bravery. They encourage him to remain steadfast to the very end. They assure him that dying so that others might live is worth it. And this is what All Saint’s Day is all about. This is who the saints are for us. On All Saints’ Day, we celebrate the faithful lives lived, which inspires us to live faithfully too, come what may. We are encouraged by their example, and we draw strength from their witness. The saints are proof that it is possible to live well, to stick it out, to be faithful. That Christ is worth dying for and that there’s no better way to live. (And, it’s interesting that Harry still has a relationship with his deceased parents and friends even after their death, but this post isn’t about that.)
So, let’s celebrate All Saint’s Day because:
- It’s sheer fun! Why should all the Halloweeners have all the fun? All Saint’s Day means costumes and food and games and relationship and meaningful conversation.
- Taking point 1 a step further, if we are going to observe some of the fasts of the Church year (and we should), then we should also FEAST! Because Christianity isn’t defined by what we don’t do, what we give up, what we can’t have, but about the abundant life and the PARTY that will be heaven! When The Church gives us permission, and even instructs us, to celebrate, we totally should.
- And when we do participate in the fast and feast rhythm of the church, we build culture and community around the things that matter. Days and activities like All Saint’s Day provide alternative practices and gatherings from riding the cultural wave in the water in which we swim. They give us a something else we should be doing. Additionally, they provide both the personal discipline and like-minded community our souls need to thrive.
- We already revere the saints anyway. You don’t have to believe in or practice the intercession of the saints in order to remember and celebrate the lives they lived. We do this all the time with people like Jim and Elisabeth Elliot, Charles Spurgeon, C.S. Lewis, and Billy Graham. Heck, we are listening to Tim Tebow’s memoire as a family right now, and even that’s kinda the same thing.
- And perhaps the most important point for All Saint’s Day in particular: the saints provide us and our children with much-needed heroes and role models. As made in God’s image and likeness, it’s human nature to desire to imitate something. Yes, ultimately, we are to be like Christ, but that goal becomes just that much more attainable, relatable, and inspiring when we see regular people like us actually do it! And, if we don’t lift us the heroes of our faith to our children (reading about their lives, talking about them, and celebrating them on their feast days), then our kids will undoubtedly choose to imitate the latest celebrity or YouTube personality. We must introduce our children to the saints, lest they choose someone far less worthy, or even dangerous, to admire and emulate. Who would you rather your kids aspire to be like?
Happy Hallowtide, friends! I encourage you to add some kind of celebration, however small, of at least All Saint’s Day to your experience this year. And let the lives of the saints enliven you.