Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Feast of All Souls

Today is the Feast of All Souls.  You might be confused--didn't we just celebrate this holiday yesterday?

No, that was All Saints.  All Saints was originally designed to honor the saints, those who had been beatified.  Official saints, canonized by the Pope.

All Souls Day, celebrated the day after All Saints, was designed to honor everyone else who had died.

In some traditions, All Saints Day honors all the Christian dead, and All Souls Day honors those who have died in the past year.  Those of you with excellent memories of your English major days may remember that Sir Gawain left for his adventure with the Green Knight on All Souls Day.  Medieval audiences would have read a lot into that date of departure.

In most Protestant churches, I'm guessing that you'll only celebrate All Saints Sunday, unless you're part of a tradition that doesn't celebrate that holiday at all.  It is a holiday that has retained a lot of its Catholic form, and some Protestant traditions will want no part of that.

What a pity.  I'm all in favor of more church holidays, more ways to infuse spirituality into our lives.  So let's take a few moments today to think about those who have died recently.

Here's a prayer I wrote for today:

Comforter God, you know that we miss our recently dead.  We do take comfort from your promise that death will not have the final word, but there are stages of our grief where it is difficult to believe.  Please forgive us our unbelief and doubt.  Please keep reminding us of your love and care.  Please strengthen us to be able to provide the same quality of love and care to those around us who are grieving loss.  Please keep our creative imaginations focused on the redemption of Creation, where you have promised we will not have any reason to cry anymore.

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I love the liturgy/liturgical allusions in Gawain. Of the texts I'm choosing for my Romances class, Gawain is probably the most often taught at our school. I considered skipping it, but I can't bring myself to do that. I think I'll emphasize the liturgical references, Marian devotion, and wonder with them about the anti-woman rant, but we'll see.

Our Presby church pretty much goes straight from Scottish Heritage Sunday (Reformation a la John Knox complete with plaid, a pipe band, and shortbread coffee hour) to the great liturgical feast of Stewardship. More's the pity. Maybe Stewardship could harken back to All Saints and All Souls and remind us of the dying out saints of the Greatest Generation who Gave More Than Generously. Or maybe not... :)