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


On Evil

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the nature of evil. It’s only, well, natural that I should do so, I suppose. This time of year tends to bring out the brooding, morose side of my introspection for several reasons. While the days are slowly getting longer here in my cold Northern home, winter seems to rage on with no end in sight. And as any Michigan driver can tell you, winter is the epitome of all that is evil: cold, unforgiving, brutal, and oppressive.

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Yeah. I thought you wouldn’t buy that. There’s a deeper, more personal reason why this time of year makes me go just a little bit wonky. Shadows of bad memories tend to play through my mind in the quiet stillness of winter. It is easy to put these things aside in the hustle of summer, but when all is stillness and pure white, it is harder for me to ignore.

A year ago, I would not be writing this. A year ago, I would have been listening to those whispers in my head and letting them tell me their lies, because I did not understand their nature or how to combat them. I let them win, because I thought I was powerless, broken, and probably deserved what I got.

Those whispers in the back of my head were me. But they were also my enemy trying to pull me back into his service. Evil is sly and subtle in this way, and it is fantastic at exploiting our weaknesses. But here’s the deal: evil exploits our weaknesses because we allow it to. Because we make the decision to wallow, to listen, to believe. I have suffered in confusion and self-hatred for years because I made the choice to let evil tell me who I was rather than listening to the merciful love of the Lord of All who made me and died for me. For me!

I told you way back at the start of this blog that Free Will is mankind’s greatest power. God built us with the ability to choose which path we would follow. Satan knows this power better than we do, and loves to toy with us by telling us a critical lie: once you’ve made the choice to serve evil, there is no turning back.

He’s just bitter because that was true for him. As an angel without Grace, he only had one chance, and he chose to rebel. And in his rage and anger and infinite patheticness, he tries to surround himself with as many embittered, desperate, miserable persons as possible, so he does not have to deal with the consequences of his mistake like a grown up. He is a powerful spoiled brat throwing a perpetual temper tantrum, and he is not to be listened to because everything he says is a lie.

So why do we ever listen to him? Well, because once upon a time, our mother and father did. When they partook of the Most Expensive Fruit Salad, Adam and Eve cursed us with Original Sin. On a personal level, they cursed us with the guilt that goes along with knowing that we are a broken people… and that lovely thing we call concupiscence. We have within us a twisted dark piece that predisposes us to temptation and deliberately acts against our best interest. It is our weak point, and Satan’s ally. And it is part of every one of us.

Thanks, mom and dad.

So how do we fight this enemy, when the enemy is already within our gates, defiling our temple, and ransacking the treasure house of our soul? How can we possibly prevail against such reckless hate?

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

Good news! Great joy! We don’t have to do it alone!

God gave us allies, the angels and saints, to help us along the way. He gave us a desire to love him which is stronger than the darkness if we let it be. And most importantly, he gave us his Son, who was made flesh of our flesh, who bled and died horribly for us to free us from the eternal Death which was the final kiss of this curse. He gave us this same living flesh and blood to consume not out of a desire for us to practice ritual cannibalism, but because through this Blessed Sacrament, we are made anew. Every time you fall on your knees before God and cry “Mercy!” He is there and grants you more than you ask for. Every time you eat the flesh of the Lamb Who Was Slain But Lives and bathe in His blood, you are purified. His is not dead viscera that passes through our digestive system. It is living flesh that bonds with our flesh and makes us more Him every single time. Jesus lives within us, growing in power every time we allow him to.

And that weakness of our concupiscence? It is no longer a curse. It is an opportunity. That weakness within that Satan so loves to manipulate is strength to those who surrender it to God’s mercy. For when we look at our brokenness and place it before God, allowing the tide of mercy from the wounds of Jesus to flow over it and into our very essence, when we truly surrender to Him, knowing that alone we are like a rabbit in an alligator pit. . . it is then that we are made strong. It is then that we are made Saints. And in this way, the forces of hell truly will not overpower us.

Hey, demons. Guess what?

My Dad can beat up your dad. And my big Brother’s gonna get you.

In fact, He already has. You’ve lost. You’re beaten.

Go away.

-E.G. Norton