In our Anglican tradition, at least in the Anglican Province of Christ the King (traditional Episcopal), we celebrate the Feast (Festival) of Christ the King on the last Sunday in October. Others choose the Sunday before Advent, toward the end of November. This being our name day, it is particularly meaningful for us. For Christ is our King indeed – in deed, in Word, and in Spirit.
And so it is particularly touching that this year the Feast of Christ the King falls on All Hallows (holy ones) Eve, the day before All Saints Day, commonly known as Halloween.
Ah, Halloween! I have found that it is a curious thing that adults desire to dress in costume and pretend for a brief time they are someone else. I have heard that actors choose their profession for the same reason, a chance to be someone else. It is an exercise of the imagination, I suppose, and in this sense can broaden one’s ability to think outside one’s own skin, or develop empathy for others in this role playing. Children costume naturally, having been role playing through creative play their first years. “Let’s pretend… Let’s play… such and such…” It seems a natural part of growing up, and when adults continue to put on costumes, perhaps they are still growing up. Maybe to have a child’s enthusiasm and imagination isn’t so bad. When we enter stories, and live the lives of other characters, we are role playing, pretending to be and do something we are not and do not (usually).
When we act our parts in the yearly Christmas Pageant (and we have numerous adults participating) we costume ourselves in wings and halos and robes and mantles. We carry sheep and gifts to present to the Christ Child and a star atop a pole to raise above the manger – more role playing, telling a glorious story.
As for Halloween, I’m not so keen on children dressing as witches and demons, since witches do exist in satanic cults across the land and demons are fallen angels, unseen but scripturally evidenced. Both do enormous harm.
But best to laugh off all these darker powers, as C.S. Lewis advised (I think).
Halloween is, I believe, or has become, a ritual recognition of another world, a way to grasp and deal with such a possibility, and perhaps through this scary fright, to face our deepest fears that things aren’t quite what they seem and there really is a Hell waiting for atheists and other deniers of Our Lord, Christ the King. There really is Judgment Day.
But in the darkness of this night we look forward for the dawn of the Feast of All Saints, a glorious, sumptuous celebration of those men and women who have gone before us (and will come after us), who were so filled with the love of God they obeyed his Son, Christ the King. The Catholic Church has named many such saints, and Anglicans reformed the number, simplifying. The names fill the squares on our Ordo Kalendars so we won’t forget: the Apostles and the martyrs who witnessed and died, the Doctors and Fathers of the Church who taught, the evangelists who wrote and preached, the clergy who gave of themselves wholly in holiness, the unsung heroes who fed and sheltered the poor. They populate our kalendars with dates going back over two thousand years.
We celebrate tomorrow, November 1st, this Communion of Saints, this river of love, rolling through time. We join them in song and in eucharist, the living and the dead. We are reminded that we are not alone, but a magnificent part of a great “cloud of witness,” witnessing to the Son of God coming to Earth as a humble baby, born into a persecuted world in a cave outside Bethlehem.
Today we identify with many of these great acts. We too, want to be saints, to know this love of God burning within us. We too, want to have lives of meaning, lives of purpose, lives witnessing to love, hope, and faith. And we too, are persecuted for these desires, for daring to preach the sanctity of life from the unborn to the aged, for daring to claim our inalienable right to freedom to believe the truth and speak that truth to lies. To that end, we protest the bullying and brainwashing of our children. To that end, we defend the family: the privileged and unique role of women as mothers who are able to give birth, to nurture within their bodies a life created by God; the privileged and unique role of men as fathers to protect those women engaged in such a holy purpose; the privileged and unique role of mothers and fathers to care for their children, to watch over them and protect them.
These men and women live among us, sanctifying our world. Thus, on Tuesday we celebrate All Souls, remembering those who have gone before us as faithful soul-soldiers. They may not have lived lives totally abandoned to God’s love and purpose, but they believed and they tried, they confessed and they repented. They reached for Our Lord’s hand and walked him, on his path, until the next stumbling and standing upright again, and moving on. All Souls is for the rest the believers, those who have gone before us in time, who followed Christ the King.
And we will not need costumes, for we will know fully who we are and are meant to be, each and every one of us. We follow the King to learn who we are, to live out who we are, and to love as we are created to love. For he created us, each one of infinite variety and complexity, each one loved by God and help precious in his sight. This is the great adventure, the great story, we are part of, a wholly holy one, to be sure.