On Halloween

Every single year, the same argument arises among Christians: should we or should we not celebrate Halloween? This year alone, I have read several articles in defense of this festive celebration. And on each of these articles, I have noticed a lot of angry, hurt comments from both sides of the spectrum.

Rather than throw myself into the freshly chummed waters of a comment section, I have instead elected to resurrect this old blog again so I can weigh in.

Almost like a. . . Trenchcoat zombie!

Almost like a. . . Trenchcoat zombie!

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has actually met me that I absolutely love Halloween. It is my favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t I love it? There’s always a ton of candy, I get to dress as eccentrically as I’d like without anyone batting an eye, and it’s a fantastic reminder of some deep spiritual truths that are profoundly important to my journey as a Catholic theologian.

I am not going to waste any time discussing the origins of Halloween here. If you want to read about that, there’s a fantastic post about it at Word on Fire. To me, the origins are not as important as the substance.

But what is the substance of Halloween? It seems to be a celebration of darkness, of mayhem, and of excess. Well, yes. But there is so much more to it than that. And to properly understand the importance of this festival, we have to look at the weekend as a whole. All Hallow’s Eve is more than just an isolated party day. It is the kickoff of a three day feast focused on the immortality of the human soul and the three stages of the Church.

(via Count Down To Zero Time)

(via Count Down To Zero Time)

Halloween may seem like a festival of Hell. Look about you on this day and the days leading up to it, and you will see things that would make Dante faint (not that making Mr. Alighieri pass out from fright is particularly hard, but still). Ghosts and ghouls, demons a plenty, black magic, gore, death. . . all these are common symbols of the day. These symbols of evil, of sin, of darkness surround us on the night of Halloween. We deliberately scare ourselves and wear masks and costumes to disguise ourselves.

Look about you every day, and you will see things that should make your hair stand on end, were you not so used to them. Everywhere there is corruption, chaos, and villainy. Moral relativism, false ‘tolerance’ that is not tolerant, infanticide, terrorism, sexual promiscuity. . . these are the symbols of our daily lives. How often do we pay attention to this darkness, to let it really scare us? How often do we just hide behind our masks and pretend that everything is as it should be when our world needs us to stand and fight?

Halloween is not just about Hell. It is about the Church Militant. It is a reminder of the battle that we are caught up in every single hour of every day, whether we acknowledge it or not. It is the day when darkness seems to win, to overpower the light.

But it is just one night. And we learn the truth with the dawn.

(via Wallpaper Kid)

(via Wallpaper Kid)

All Saint’s Day is more than a day where we pray for all our dead in Heaven. It is the day of victory, a reminder that our God has won, that the war is over, that all we have to do is fight and hold fast. It is the celebration of the Church Triumphant over all the evils of this life, over the powers of Hell, and over our own concupiscence. And this feast makes no sense without Halloween. It drifts without context, because without the drama and the darkness and the suffering, the light is too easy to take for granted. We need to acknowledge the evils of our age so that conquering them is all the sweeter.

But there is one more day to this trifold feast, and one that we need to stop ignoring. All Soul’s Day is forgotten too often in the fervor to move on after Candy Day and Mass Day. And that is a shame, because when we forget this feast, we also forget a large chunk of our Church.

(via Jaques Gude)

(via Jaques Gude)

All Soul’s Day is distinct from All Saint’s Day because it is the day we celebrate the Church Penitent, the “Church-in-the-waiting-room,” our brothers and sisters in Purgatory. Purgatory is very real, very necessary, and very important. (If you want a good explanation of Purgatory, I tackled it here.) And the souls there need our prayers way more than the souls in Heaven do.

This celebration comes at the end of the feast for a reason. It is important for us to know the outcome of the battle before we think about Purgatory so that we can accept the fact that most of us have to work through our issues before we can get to Heaven. When we know that Purgatory means that we are getting into Heaven, then it is easier to bear. And we can remind our departed brothers and sisters that they are getting there, that they should not be afraid to let go, that they are worthy of Heaven. We through our prayers are the cheerleaders that encourage and strengthen these souls. We, in a sense, get to help them get to Heaven.

So why do we neglect this feast? Why do we lump it together with All Saint’s Day so we only have to go to Mass once? Are we so pigheaded a people that we cannot see how much this is needed?

We have gotten used to celebrating All Saint’s Day in a vacuum, and that makes us just as guilty as the secular world who celebrates Halloween in a vacuum. We need all three days because each teaches us something different. And besides, a three day party is so much better than a one or two day party, isn’t it?

Let’s celebrate. Let’s face the darkness. Let’s revel in the light. Let’s pray for all our dead.

And let’s praise God for our glorious traditions that educate us in His ways.

–E.G. Norton

Into the Hermitage or Into the Fray?

(via Prophecies of Revelation)

(via Prophecies of Revelation)

Ah, the times we live in!

I have been spending a lot of time in recent months thinking about my place in the world. I know certain things about myself now that I did not fully understand before. Perhaps this is the virtue of being introspective. Perhaps it is also the major curse of being introspective, but that is a post for a later day.

I should specify and say that I have become far more aware that I do not belong in this world. I do not know why this comes as a surprise to me. After all, the Lord of Time and Space Himself said as much:

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. (John 15:19-20 NIV)

The World HATES me.

Now, don’t get me wrong here. There are very few people I’ve met who hate me personally (though this does happen on occasion and I’m learning how to handle not being liked). But what I have learned is that many people hate what I stand for and will do anything they can to stop me and others who share my beliefs from speaking up. Because I am a catechist, someone whose job and deepest calling is to instruct people in the glorious mysteries of the Catholic Church and to explain and uphold her teachings, I have a feeling that I am going to be running into this more and more. I am not on the front lines, but I am definitely in the battle, whether I like it or not.

It’s uncomfortable, and for an introvert like me, downright petrifying to face the fact that this is my calling. There are two logical responses to this fact, and one is WAY more tempting than the other.

My first choice is to take the man I love and the future Little Introspectives and to fortify ourselves in our own tiny, super Catholic world. We can homeschool and stop using the internet, tv, etc. We can raise them on the Great Books and never leave our little compound on the farm except to go three blocks south for Mass and maybe to go hang out with other Catholics. In short, we can unplug and disengage from the culture like Hermits United.

It'll be GREAT! (via Carol Cassara)

It’ll be GREAT! (via Carol Cassara)

That sounds awesome, right? Why fight the dragon when you can sit in your castle and watch the world burn?

Except that is not at all what we Christians are called to do. Our King explains this further:

When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father–the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father–he will testify about me. And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning. (John 15: 26-27 NIV)

Oh.

I use the NIV here because I love the use of the word testify. It makes me think of being called into court as the witness of some terrible crime, particularly an act of gang violence. I think of how terrifying it would be to put my life on the line to speak the truth about what I have seen and what I know. And yet, this is exactly what each and every one of us is called to do. Jesus, the Great Judge, is counting on our testimony. But not to condemn the world. Rather, he wants us to bear witness to the Truth so that the world can reap the benefits of His sacrifice. He has already granted amnesty to all who come to bathe in His Precious Blood.

But He has also given every human a choice. Because of the power of Free Will, we can choose to turn away from his love and embrace the death He died to save us from. We can march ourselves right into Hell if we want to. He won’t stop us if that is what we truly want. We are absolutely free to do whatever “feels right,” even if it means taking a lava nap.

Yet He has ordered His servants to testify, so that all may make a more informed choice. And He has called us to battle for the souls who are caught in the crossfire between the forces of Light and the forces of Darkness.

So there is the other option. We cannot, in good conscience, hide away in our bunkers and watch everyone drown in corruption. That is not what we have been asked to do. If we truly love and serve our Master, we must fight by way of our testimony. We must fight with the greatest weapon God has given us: Love.

I say we must fight with Love because the world will fight us with Hate. We cannot fight Hate with Hate. That merely breeds more sin and anger. Hate is not of God. Hate is of Ol’ Luce and the Fallen Legion (awesome band name). And make no mistake: the other side has been so twisted by hate and fear that they will call our Love Hate even when we are simply speaking the Truth as kindly as possible. But that does not make our Love suddenly turn to Hate. Rather, it shows us that we are making progress because we are hitting nerves.

We must never back down from our battle, but we must never become hardened by it to the point that we see only sin and not the broken human soul behind it. We are to love and heal that person, not obliterate them. It is a delicate balance, but an important one.

So, once more into the breach, my friends. Let us rally, let us never falter, and let us do the work before us, walking the Destined Path towards sainthood. Let us support each other always. And let us return at the end of our fight to the shores of our home country, where our Master will be waiting with open arms and a smile that says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

-E.G. Norton