While attending Duke Divinity School, I lived in a dorm with undergraduate students as a resident assistant. As a result, I found myself enamored by the activities of campus life. In addition to living on campus, I often worshiped on Sunday morning at Duke Chapel. One service that I distinctly remember from my time in North Carolina was the All Hallow’s Eve service at Duke Chapel on Halloween Evening. The word Halloween or Hallowe'en dates to about 1745 and is of Christian origin.
The word "Hallowe'en" means "hallowed evening" or "holy evening." It comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows' Eve (the evening before All Hallows' Day, or what we call All Saints’ Day). Over time, (All) Hallow(s) E(v)e evolved into Hallowe'en. Since the time of the early Church, major feasts in Christianity (such as Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost) had vigils that began the night before, as did the feast of All Hallows'. These three days are a time for honoring the saints and praying for the recently departed souls who have yet to reach Heaven. In France, some Christian families, on the night of All Hallows' Eve, pray beside the graves of their loved ones. In Italy, some families leave a large meal out for ghosts of their passed relatives, before they departed for church services. In Spain, special pastries are baked, and placed on the graves of the churchyard, a practice that continues to this day.
The All Hallow’s Eve Service as a result has tended to be more sorrowful, and a time of mourning for those of the church who have gone ahead of us. As a result of this the next Sunday, All Saints’ Day, is to be a time of celebration and rejoicing for those who have died in the faith. At Duke Chapel, I was to read scripture in worship on All Saints’ Day, I remember processing in with the choir and the ministers to a jazz tune of When the Saints Go Marching In (which began as a spiritual in the African American Church). What a joyful time it was indeed, a sign of the new creation to come! As Christians, we believe in a present and a coming Resurrection. We believe that we live in both a time of renewal and salvation now, but also that there will be a time when God restores and makes all things new. We acknowledge that the Kingdom is now, just as Jesus said that Lazarus would be raised in that day (John 11) and just as Jesus said to the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise with him on that day (Luke 23:39-43), yet we also admit all has not yet fully been revealed to us. The Resurrection we look to, is now and is yet fully revealed to us. Creation itself can even provide cracks that give us glimpses of what is yet to be. Even though we cannot see the heavenly banquet, we can see the communion table. We cannot see the heavenly garments, but we can see the baptismal garments. We also know that there will be a day when Jesus “shall come again in glory” and we “will feast at his heavenly banquet.” Therefore, whenever we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, it is there that the Church gathers with the saints throughout all the ages, and is given such a foretaste to how the coming kingdom shall look. It is there that the Church is able to truly “taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8) Might we give thanks for the Saints that have gone before us. It is okay to miss them and mourn, but might we also rejoice and encourage one another each time we gather with the Saints who are eternally with us also!
Peace in the name of the Resurrected Christ, Will, Ed, and the FUMC staff