Piddingworth Greg Benton
|'Piddingworth...where St. George's Cross is not yet banned.'
|Honour all men.
Honour the King.
|Talitha cumi - Rise, little girl|
|The Living & The Dead|
| All Souls Day
With the saints give rest,
to the soul of Thy servant
where sickness and sorrow
are no more, neither sighing,
but life everlasting.
|IN the midst of life we are in death:
of whom may we seek for succour,
but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins
art justly displeased?
'AT THE GRAVE'
for the Burial of the Dead
Book of Common Prayer
He who believes in me,
but he were dead, yet shall he live.
Jesus of Nazareth
|For several weeks to now, stores have been promoting their 'Hallowe'en
Products'. Masks, costumes, plastic Jack o' lanterns and skeletons
to serve the needs of a public that, in Canada, is the most lucrative
commercial event next to Christmas. All this in addition to the sale
of real pumpkins to be carved out with a frightening 'face' and
lit with a candle.
On Hallowe'en, there is the regular, what we used to call 'shelling out',
(now more commonly called 'trick or treat') where children go from
door to door in an exercise that, were it not for the collectively agreed
'contract' would plainly be regarded as extortion. The basic premise
of the Hallowe'en collective agreement is that when a kid dressed up
in a costume yells at the door, the inhabitant willingly gives the urchin
some kind of 'pay off' in the form of a sweet treat. If the house-dweller
is not forthcoming, he may be subjected to foul play from the caller.
Occasionally, a house gets 'soaped' or a pumpkin smashed, but this
is not usually done by the little ones seeking treats but generally by
bored adolescents who take pleasure in trashing things.
It would be a safe guess that the vast majority of these children
and their parents don't have a clue as to the origin of the event;
much like Christmas has become in our culture. They wouldn't
know a 'hallow' from an 'e'en' just as they little know a 'Christ'
from a 'mas'.
Hallowe'en has joined the fantasy world of popular culture; disconnected
from it's Christian roots (as well as from what used to be called an
'education'), it has become embued with shallow sentimentalism
and the craving for material pleasure or gain. That it is otherwise
harmless fun, of course, is obvious for most. For some, however
the elements related to the pagan, occult observances that lay underneath
much of 'Hallowe'en' is something of a danger to the vulnerable
and curious. For the Christian, All Hallows and All Souls have their
'inspiration' within the context of all that is pure and holy, is anything
but fun but has a great deal to do with our destiny.
By contrast, in some European countries, families still visit the graves
of their dead and lay flowers. In other places, like Mexico, this week's
commemoration of 'All Saints' (Hallows) and All Souls Days is the
'Day of the Dead' (Día de los Muertos), a mixture of pagan and
Christian belief, and so the place to go is where
the 'Dead' are buried. Hymns, chants, songs, prayers, flowers, and
the burning of lights are all part of what becomes a festive occasion
with the belief in life beyond the grave as well as some superstition.
Death comes to us all, but not all of us will either acknowledge that
fact or try to come to terms with it. It is remarkable the great
number of people who, having little or no faith, seem to cling
to an almost pagan notion of life past death with the emphasis
being more to bring comfort to the self than hope to the departed.
The average 'funeral' for the dead these days seems more like
a form of group therapy mixed with a dash of new age 'spirituality';
Perhaps some, kind 'symbolic' prayers, if any, but loads of emotion.
In many cases, the body of the loved one, is neither present nor seen;
having been either cremated to ashes beforehand and scattered
to the wind (or to be latterly placed on a mantle), or placed
in a marked spot that will, for many, never be visited.
Unlike the burial offices of the Church, death itself, as in pop
Hallowe'en, is not addressed, but masked, hidden and avoided.
Even the most fervent atheists seem inclined to the observance
of the 'invention of death'.
Having presided over hundreds of funerals, one is exposed to myriad
differences in people's attitudes towards grief, dying and death.
Invariably, I have found that those for whom death is an
accepted part of paradoxical life and who bring to it an understanding
in faith, not only have a firmer hope for the blessing of eternal
life in the world to come, but a deeper conviction for this life.
The old prayer for a 'happy death' implies a confidence
in the promises of Christ, i.e., 'he who believes in me, but he
were dead, yet shall he live' and an equally firm acceptance
of the reality and fear of 'Hell'. It is this same faith that brings
so much satisfaction in the real celebrations of All Saints and All Souls,
and that is the real meaning of Hallowe'en.
The custom of creating Jack O'Lanterns, first from turnips and
then pumpkins, seems to have come from Ireland. These, as well
as the tradition of wearing a 'scary' costume, were intended to
out-do evil in scariness, i.e., keep the devils away. Somehow,
it's got turned around toward keeping the angels away!
In the context of the Christian life, the confrontation with life and death
is one that is at the very heart of the gospel. 'God so loved the world
that He gave His only-begotten Son, to the end that all who believe
in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life'. (Jn 2.16) That's sort of
Christmas, Easter and all the stuff in-between all wrapped together.
All Saints Day is a focus on the mystery and holiness of life in, with
and for God where death can claim no victory but is relegated to it's
shadowy place whilst the Saints live forever in the beatific presence
of God. A 'Saint' formally is one whose life was so filled with
faith in and devotion to Christ that they lived either to die or with
such sacrifice that God showered them with grace. Thousands
have died as martyrs from the very beginning of the Church and
sadly continue to do so today in some parts of the world. The
Saints remind us of the deep purpose for living, i.e., to live in
communion with God now and forever. God is the beginning
and the end of all life and the beginning and hopeful end for
our lives. All Saints is a celebration of the promise of eternal light
and love for all those who love God.
For those among us whose notion of life is that it ends at
death, that may well be true....for them. A life estranged from
the love of God leads to death...perhaps an early one in the
soul. Hell is life within death...utterly devoid of light and love.
Some people don't even want to think about such a condition
and many deny the existence of it at all...along with no Satan.
They may acknowledge a kind of 'evil' in the world but it is
mostly defined by their own limited sensibilities rather than
as the powerful, worldly opposition of all things to God.
For those of us of faith, leading a good and holy life in
friendship with God does not mean that we are not tempted
or surrounded by evil and all it's clever tricks, but that
having put on the whole armour of God, in spite of all
the 'bad' that comes our way, we remains constant...we
stay on course by putting away our sins and refreshing
The observance of All Soul's Day, the day after All Hallows,
is in a variety of forms from east to west, also from antiquity.
It is the commemoration of 'the faithful departed', i.e., the dead
whose lives await their final end with God and all the saints in heaven.
The basis of the celebration is intercessory prayer, i.e., asking
God to forgive the sins of those departed, to bless them and make
them pure and holy, that they may know Christ in the fullness
Some Protestants would protest such a notion as this (and with
the corruptions of the middle ages clouding the issue it is somewhat
understandable) but this is a very early part of the Church's tradition
even preceding the written scriptures. The Church, the community
of the faithful prays for all in their need. We pray for each other,
for those we don't know, for those in any sort of condition...including
the departed condtion. One could only accept this, of course, if one
also believes in a manner of existence beyond the material world.
We believe that the departed are either a. with God (as saint) or
b. without God (damned) or c. awaiting God. (in purgatory).
Wash me I will be whiter than snow.
All prayer is communion with God. Jesus promised that if we ask
in faith God will respond in grace and according to His will.
The will of God is that no one should die forever, (perish) but live.
That's a good reason to appeal on behalf of those whom we no
longer see but are in another realm. Besides, it goes both ways.
We believe that the saints and many of our departed loved ones
are praying for us! The 'work' of God is itself prayer...in heaven
and on earth. When we speak with heaven through the Holy Spirit,
heaven also speaks with us, in the depths of our souls, through
the Holy Spirit. That is why we communicate with the known
saints of heaven. They're alive. We are not schizophrenics
falling about with delusional chatter; although, to an unbeliever
it might well seem the same. Any prayer, formal, informal,
off the cuff, or quietly at bedside, when offered by a contrite
and earnest soul in the name of God...is heard.
Sometimes I am asked if we are able to communicate with 'the dead'.
There are many charlatans making a living off their 'snake oil' of
claiming to communicate with the souls of people's loved ones;
especially the often deeply vulnerable and those who, even years
after the death, are riddled with grief. Contacting spirits comes
with accepting Visa, Amex, Mastercard, and the like.
If these people do contact a 'spirit', outside of prayer, outside
of God and the Name of God...then whatever it is they are talking
to isn't of God and if isn't of God then it belongs to something else:
something very dark.
When our loved ones die, all the love and grace marking their
soul does not die but lives. Love never dies. That is why we
can continue to love those whom we no longer see and they,
if through the Holy Spirit, continue to love us. We surrender
the souls of the departed from earth to God at the funeral.
Our ability to communicate to that world beyond us can only
happen through the power of that is that world: God.
There is no direct access in communication with the departed.
Everything must go through God to whom those souls belong
alone and are detached from this world.
It is possible for a living soul to communicate with us but
only by and through God and the Holy Spirit that is God.
Our conversations with souls and saints are the same as those
we have with Christ in whom we are able to have such communion.
The language is that of grace...where the needs be no translation.
The treats of faith are true and everlasting.
The tricks of the evil one are lies that lead to corruption and death.