This Sunday Nov 1st, we will be celebrating All Saint’s Day. In this particular church, it is a time within worship when we remember those we’ve lost over the last year, who now rest with God. This has been a meaningful time not only for those who mourn the recently deceased but for all of us to reconnect and remember those who now enjoy the Heavenly banquet.
While the secular origins of All Saints Day are vast and wide, there is evidence (and some lore) that All Saints Day grew out of the Celts feast of ‘Samhain’, (pronounced SAH-win) which may date back as far as 1200BCE and marks the beginning of the ‘dark half’ of the year. The Celts believed this was also a moment on the ‘turning of the year’s wheel’ which they believed to be a “thin place” where ancestors were especially accessible ‘across the veil’. Over time it has evolved to celebrate both the final harvest and remembering the dead. It was observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man traditionally beginning after sundown on October 31st through sundown on November 1st. This is also where we get Halloween from, or ‘All Hallows Eve’.
Western Christianity, the Roman Church in particular, created the Christian feasts of All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls (November 2nd) to honor the profound legacy of wisdom that our ancestors have left to us. In Presbyterian terms, it is right and appropriate to ‘honor’ the profound legacy of wisdom our ancestors left us, especially because we understand ourselves as both children of God (Tekna Theou, in Greek) and the Priesthood of all believers, so the wisdom imparted comes from both our worldly ancestors but also God, the Almighty.
To take it a step further, if we are indeed honoring a profound legacy from our ancestors, then it makes sense to also include celebrating those in our congregation who we baptized this past year as well as remember/celebrate our own baptism. This act (which is an act of the whole worshipping community) both recognizes the gifts from God of the people in our lives, but the One, who gives our lives meaning, even in the midst of changes we experience through our faith journey.
This is wonderfully and succinctly defined in Ecclesiastes 3. It begins with “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die…
You likely remember the song: “To everything , turn, turn, turn …there is a season…turn, turn, turn…” This was a popular song written by Pete Seeger in 1962 which the “Birds” covered into the #1 single in 1965. But here’s the cool part. Well, actually there are two. First, Seeger wrote this song to inspire world peace in the midst of the 60’s when there was tremendous national and world upheaval that ran the gamut from numerous civil wars, Vietnam War as well as growing nuclear threats. Seeger was doing his part to not only call attention to the need for peace but also he was calling us back to scripture, to God’s wisdom of the ages, (i.e., Ecclesiastes 3). FYI…Ecclesiastes is known as one of the wisdom books of the Old Testament.
The second fact is far more subtle. The only lyrics Seeger actually wrote of that entire song were the last line: “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late” and the title: “Turn, Turn, Turn” .
This Sunday Nov 1st, we will be celebrating All Saint’s Day. In this particular church, it is a time
within worship when we remember those we’ve lost over the last year, who now rest with God. This has been a meaningful time not only for those who mourn the recently deceased but for all of us to reconnect and remember those who now enjoy the Heavenly banquet.
Life is full of surprises. Some good, some not so good, but all are within the realm of the gifts that God gives us all. Turn back to God. Turn back to worship. Turn back to being part of a community that seeks to acknowledge the gifts and graces of life as we begin the lengthening of the nights and deepening of our faith.
Turning and re-turning to Christ with you,
♥ Rev Jen