ALL SAINTS in a pandemic.
The beautiful thing about Storied Church is that we come from eclectic church backgrounds. Some of us come from backgrounds where there is was a high emphasis on the lectionary (the worldwide churches weekly appointed church readings) and the yearly church calendar. While some of us come from a more thematic background with less emphasis on Church high holy days.
We want to take a moment to talk through why a deep appreciation of the Christian yearly calendar matters and that we might find a fondness for it.
It begins the first week of Advent (beginning of December/late November) and culminates with Christ the King Sunday (late November). We are most familiar with the Christmas and Easter seasons.
Each season and holy days have immense value. One of those high holy days is All Saints, which is November 1st. It is the day after Halloween or All Hallows Eve. Most churches celebrate the Sunday after Halloween.
Most of us are familiar with Halloween, which falls the day before All Saints.
Most High Holy church days were pagan celebrations prior to being a Christian celebration. Christmas for example was the celebration of the god of the sun. It was celebrated during the winter solstice. And Easter was the celebration of the goddess of fertility, which was celebrated in the spring.
Many of these holidays had some connection with the seasons.
When Christianity went from a persecuted religion to an empire religion around the 4th century the church began to “replace” pagan high holy days with Christian ones.
Sorry, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.
Halloween has a similar story. It comes from a Celtic tradition of Samain. It was a mystical, pagan celebration that ushered in the coming season of darkness as the days got shorter and colder. And it recognized the coming death of the winter when deaths were more prevalent during the colder seasons.
Like Christmas and Easter, All Saints found its home during the pagan season of Samain. It began in the 7th century as a celebration of the lives of early church martyrs. Then later became a celebration of those in our own families and for the ancestors that have gone before us.
So each year the church celebrates those who have passed on from this life to the next.
Various places and cultures celebrate it differently. People in Mexico celebrate the day after All Saints called All Souls day. They make altars to the dead. Celebrating their lives by bringing them their favorite food, drinks, and toys for children.
Typically we name people who have died on All Saints Sunday in our praying of The Great Thanksgiving liturgy because
we believe the meal for which we taste of God’s goodness is the meal that they feast.
In the American tradition, we struggle with mysticism. But we do believe in some way, unexplained, our loved ones who have died… are with us… in a mystical and mysterious way.
And so this Sunday we will carry on this tradition and practice in celebrating the lives that have passed before us and celebrate their place at God’s abundant table.
I hope you will join us virtually on Facebook Live this Sunday @ 10:30a. Here is what we want you to have at the ready to participate.
Bread and juice for communion
A candle and a lighter to light during our online gathering.