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Blog on All Saints/Souls

Posted Fri, 10/29/2021 - 11:39 by Robert
Pictured: A number of Saints

On Sunday 31st October, many people will be celebrating Halloween - carving pumpkins, filling up on sweets and perhaps watching a horror film from behind the sofa. As well as being a day of ghoulish festivities, this date has long marked the beginning of a particular season in the Christian liturgical year. Halloween is otherwise known as ‘All Hallows Eve’, which is the day before All Saints Day or All Hallows Day (‘hallow’ being synonymous with ‘holy’ or ‘saintly’).  

For many Christian churches, the beginning of November marks a period of remembrance in the liturgical calendar. On 1st November, a number of denominations observe All Saints Day. On this feast, the Saints of the Church are remembered and celebrated. For many Christians, the Saints are exemplars of holiness; people whose earthly life was inspirational and marked by an exceptional faith and dedication to God. Included in this list are martyrs whose faith compelled them to hold fast in the face of religious persecution to the point of death. Some Christians petition these Saints, who are now in heaven, to intercede to God for them, while other denominations emphasise the saintliness of all believers around this festival.  

The following day, 2nd November, is All Souls Day. On this feast, those who have died are remembered. In some instances, the names of the departed are read aloud in Church, while some countries have particular religious and cultural customs to remember those they have lost. In Belgium, for example, chrysanthemum plants are placed on the graves of family members, filling town cemeteries with vibrant blooms in the depths of autumn. It is poignant that Remembrance Sunday falls shortly after these feasts, as we remember with solemnity those who were killed in war.   

This season of memory, where loss is reflected upon, but also where lives are celebrated and remembered, holds an important place in the liturgical year. Its value, perhaps, can also translate to wider culture and society. Solemn remembrance of the past, connecting with stories of lives lost, noting those who have suffered for their beliefs and honouring people who have exemplified the fullness of human flourishing are all, I would suggest, invaluable practices and traditions which give weight and importance to memory in the present.   

James Roberts
CCJ Programme Manager