Anyone who has a soul ought to love this time of year. Why? Simple. Because at no other point of the year is there such a beautiful juxtaposition of the Great Paradoxes of Life. In a matter of just three days, a soul glimpses the great mysteries of Life: Death, Redemption, and Resurrection.
It would be a great injustice to only celebrate one and not the other, which is why the Church encourages us to participate in the celebration of all three.
For those Christians who worry about the sanctity of celebrating such a ghoulish holiday like Halloween, I would encourage you to remember the intentions behind its original institution rather than the distortion it’s become seen as today. October 31st has historically been recognized as “All Hallows Eve” the evening before one of the most celebrated holy days of the Church, All Saints Day, a day set aside for Christians to make a mockery of the devil by proclaiming the goodness of Christ’s redemptive work in the Saints. For as St. Thomas once observed of the devil, “The proud spirit cannot endure to be mocked.” If you still have trouble with how such festivities are portrayed in modern times compared to its origins, I would encourage you to read this article from CatholicAnswers.com “Why Catholics (and the church in general) Should Embrace Halloween.” Of particular amusement is the recalling that Martin Luther tacked his 95 theses to protest indulgences to the door of the Wittenberg church on October 31, 1517. If anything, Protestants in particular ought to be celebrating Halloween as a day of liberation from the devils, an intentional act not lost to Luther or his contemporaries at the time in its becoming its own form of making a mockery against “the proud spirit.” Luther is quoted by the great writer and play write, C.S. Lewis in his infamous “Screwtape Letters” as saying, “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.” A practice many saints have expressed success with also in their journey toward holiness. While the church doesn’t take a position on whether it is wise to mock the devil, it does agree that he is a mockery, in the noun sense of the word meaning “an object of derision” as in “the devil has become a mock of all Creation.” What more perfect form of mockery could there be than the spectacle of modern Halloween traditions? Christ gets the majesty of the cross and the title Redeemer of All Souls while the devil gets costumes and candy. This thought amuses me #PonderThat.
Which leads us more to the point of why the celebration must continue into All Saints Day on November 1st. It is precisely because of the redemptive work of Christ that we have any power at all to make a mock of the devil.
All Saints Day is a feast (celebration) of the highest rank, traditionally having both an eve vigil (All-Hallows Eve aka Halloween) and an octave (eight days of celebration including All Souls Day), and giving place to no other feast. Why does the church give such celebration and honor to the saints on this day? Simple. Because the Scriptures tell us to. The most important form of honoring the saints, to which all the other forms are related, is the imitation of them in their relationship with God. Paul wrote extensively about the importance of spiritual imitation. He stated: “I urge you, then, be imitators of me. Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach them everywhere in every church” (1 Cor. 4:16–17). Later he told the same group: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:1–2). Notice the Apostle invites us to imitate him as one who is persevering to imitate Christ and not just to discard his example, but to include it also as we preserver ourselves to imitate Christ. The author of the book of Hebrews also stresses the importance of imitating true spiritual leaders: “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7). This honor of imitation falls to those who have been recognized as “friends of God” (Matthew 10:41) both living and deceased. An honor we see the Apostle Peter himself is quite familiar with when he offers to build three shelters for Elijah, Moses and Jesus on Mt. Tabor during the transfiguration recorded in Matthew 17:1-13. Two men of honor (saints) whom have long passed from the land of the living. Two saints whom not just Jesus but Peter himself also sees appear before him in the Land of the Living. Two saints the Apostle Paul counts among the faithful departed in his letter to the Hebrews chapter 11 as having waited “to enter in together with us into the promise.” A group of saints so large, St. John the Apostle writes in the book of Revelation “I saw so large a number, that nobody could count them.” The best way to make a mock of such an object of derision as the devil, is to make an object of purity such as a Saint who imitates the unity of Christ. Better yet, make so many they cannot be numbered. If you’re still not convinced and concerned with labels of apostasy and heresy, I encourage you to read another equally insightful article from CatholicAnswers.com on “Saint Worship?”
Which leads us to the next point and the conclusion of our three-day celebration, the feast of All Souls.
It is only in the light of the Communion of All Saints that we can truly appreciate the beauty of celebrating All Souls. I choose to quote the Catechism of the Catholic church here because it explains the Communion of Saints most concisely as a communion in Spiritual Goods which unite us together in one church, one body, whether living or dead. All Souls are invited to share in this communion of Spiritual Goods, which are:
“Communion in the faith. The faith of the faithful is the faith of the Church, received from the apostles. Faith is a treasure of life which is enriched by being shared.
Communion of the sacraments. “The fruit of all the sacraments belongs to all the faithful. All the sacraments are sacred links uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church. The communion of saints must be understood as the communion of the sacraments. . . . The name ‘communion’ can be applied to all of them, for they unite us to God. . . . But this name is better suited to the Eucharist than to any other, because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.”
Communion of charisms. Within the communion of the Church, the Holy Spirit “distributes special graces among the faithful of every rank” for the building up of the Church. Now, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Cor 12:7).”
“They had everything in common” (Acts 4:32). “Everything the true Christian has is to be regarded as a good possessed in common with everyone else. All Christians should be ready and eager to come to the help of the needy . . . and of their neighbors in want.” A Christian is a steward of the Lord’s goods (Lk 16:1, 3).
Communion in charity. In the sanctorum communio, “None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Rom 14:7). “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”(1 Cor 12:26-27). “Charity does not insist on its own way (1 Cor 13:5; cf. 10:24). In this solidarity with all men, living or dead, which is founded on the communion of saints, the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.”
When we accept the invitation to live in community, in co-unity (communion), as brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God, we begin to see that we are part of a bigger family than just ourselves, and part of an even bigger body of souls than even those we consider to be churched. Now we can see more clearly the true state of the church and All its Souls.
The Catechism describes that there are actually three states of the church, “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.”
All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together. – Ephesians 4:16
“In full consciousness of this communion of the whole Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the Church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead; and ‘because it is a holy and a wholesome thought to pray for the dead that they may be loosed from their sins’ she offers her suffrages for them” (2 Maccabees 12:45).
In the same way the Father opened the heavens over His Son, revealing to him Elijah and Moses to interceded and commune with him in prayer and ministry to strengthen him for his hour to come, the most holy saints who have gone before us having attained to that perfected state of glory which comes from obedience to following in the way of Christ Jesus, and who having attained the “crown of victory” (Revelations 3:21) as those who have overcome, they continue to intercede for us in communion with Jesus, as he comes to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and in other ministering spirits, to help us fulfill our hour to come that those who having died in faith together with us we may all enter into the promise (Hebrews 11:39-40). This is the beauty of these three holy-days, that together every soul might enter into Christ’s promise through baptismal and physical death, and the purifying blood of redemption, into a new resurrection of life united through Jesus.
Next to celebrating his birth (Christmas), death (Good Friday), and resurrection (Easter), the triune-celebration of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day to me is like celebrating Christmas in July! It’s even better to find a way to celebrate them all year long. At the very least, it is a call to us at the beginning of the Harvest Season to prepare ourselves for The Birth which comes following on the heels of the feast of Thanks & Giving. These days could be a sort of doorway to your family to begin to enter in to the promise that is given to us at Christmas time each year, after death has had its fun.
Like the Saints, let us imitate the One who tricked the devil into believing death would reign whilst all the while planning to give the keys of victory to us in His Name. Now that’s a Treat worth celebrating!
May you have a Joyful 3-day Feast and many good treats.
By Kim Engel
Founder of Sheerah Ministries
Kim is mother of two children, Author, Speaker and lover of the Word. She has a heart for encouraging women to Awaken to their God-given gifts and callings and to see the Body of Christ come together in unity as it continues the mission of Jesus Christ to bring love to the world in the hope of salvation and by the power of the Holy Spirit. She is founder of Sheerah Ministries, a collaboration of women intent on sharing the good news and inspiration of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit through teachings, retreats, speaking engagements, writing, media and the arts. Follow Kim on her Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/WakingEve and on Instagram and Twitter @WakingEve or contact by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. SUBSCRIBE to our blog to keep updated on Sheerah Ministries blogs by contributing partners, news and events.