Triduum of All Hallows

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Sometimes it is hard to think of Halloween as the start of Christian Triduum, but it is. It is the beginning of Hallomas and the eve of All Saints Day , which is followed by All Souls Day. Halloween many times takes on the feeling of paganism, and its customs and solstice link do indeed trace back to many pre Christian festivities. Christians were not the first to be concerned with the spirits or souls of the departed. Halloween as commemorated reflects much of the incorporation of ancient festivals with Christian beliefs. Commercialism too, has shaped this modern holiday just as it has distorted Christmas into a shopping season, and Saint Patrick’s day into a celebration of alcohol.

Many times Hallomas ends on its first day, Halloween. It is the costumes and parties and candies that are advertised; and it is the remembrance of the deceased that is forgotten. The traditional belief of Halloween is that the veil between the material and spiritual world becomes thin. Oddly that day of candy from a religious standpoint was traditionally a day of fasting. Halloween borrows from many traditions around the world though so it is easy to see how that fast got misplaced. It also east to see how, especially in northern climates how this day is associated with the thinning of the veil between life and death. It is the transition of the long days of light to the dark days of winter. It is the trees shedding their leaves. It is the harvesting of the last harvest of the season. It is the cycle of life that is so visible in most northern European climates. One only has to look around to see how that veil is thinned. That change in nature does take on its own spiritual quality and the commercial and pedestrian celebration of Halloween is a festive acknowledgement of that change. But if one only celebrates that end of fall or change of season, Halloween becomes dead as winter. Halloween is not the celebration, it is after all just the beginning of the celebration.

Halloween translates to “the eve of All Saints day” where the church celebrates all saints. It acknowledges all of those faithful who have led exemplary lives. It is a day of remembrance for those who have not been canonized, or for those who do not have a recognized day of their own. It is a day for famous, and those known only by a few family members. It is that celebration of the communion of saints, a day to ask for those saints to intercede for us, to pray for us, and us to offer our prayers and petitions to them. It is a day dedicated to saints,the holy innocents, and martyrs. It is a day of church triumphant. It is good to remember those who have been triumphant on their journey, those who have had a bountiful harvest and who were victorious over “the evil spirits” that are so humorously portrayed on Halloween.

The third day of All Hallows pays tribute to the souls that perhaps stumbled a bit on their journey. Those that perhaps did not make all of the right choices, the ones that were perhaps tricked in life. All Souls day is one for those that struggle and the consolation that even a sinner is loved. It is a day devoted to those souls in purgatory, those that hope to be raised to heaven and those who depend on our prayers and intercessions.

The Triduum is a look at  all souls, all the faithful departed whether saints or sinners, serious topics thankfully lightened by a very festive celebration; but it is easy to get tricked into ignoring these souls while being bribed by candy. In that Halloween phrase “trick or treat”, perhaps there is an echo of both the day of all saints and souls; it is the saints that did not fall for life’s tricks, while perhaps some souls were a bit to attached to the treats that they lost sight of the perils. The disguises of Halloween do after all mimic the disguises and deceptions of life. Art does indeed imitate life.Trick or treat can be rephrased to the more sober and biblical “I present to you a blessing and a curse.” Jack-O-Lanterns with their candles do illustrate body and soul and the procession of masked characters is a drama of the procession of life as most everyone eventually realizes their season for collecting treats has passed. Eventually one must pass from one side of the door to the other, from asking the questions to giving the replies or simply observing and growing in these seasons of life.

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