26 Oct

Halloween is a trick: All Saints is a treat

How typical of the hypnotised consumerism of our times that we habitually grandstand evil rather than good, and never more hysterically than on All Hallows Eve. All hallows means all the saints and the day after Halloween is indeed All Saints. Halloween was originally a vigil of preparation for the next day’s great festival.

What is it now except the licensed blackmail and generalised misrule of “trick or treating” and the celebration of vampires? And it’s notable that the mob which makes such a song and dance about Halloween doesn’t celebrate All Saints at all – if the mob even knows that 1st November is All Saints Day.

This is a season of the church’s year with profound connotations and a resonant theme. It is the Allhallowstide tridium and its purpose is the recollection of the dead and a reflection in the deeps of autumn on our own mortality. Naturally, today’s gaudy bedlam doesn’t like to be reminded of these things – unless by means of the escapist cartoon version featuring ghosts, ghouls, bloodsuckers and the horror films.

There is much to be gained from a celebration of this tridium, if you’re prepared to put a bit of thought and effort into it. All Hallows is the preparation when friends might gather in the home, have a light supper together and then say Evening Prayer or Compline, followed by silence. All Saints is a red letter day and we should hear Mass. All Souls on 2nd November is the day on which to commemorate all the departed and we have the opportunity to pray for the souls of those of our families and friends who have died.

There is an extension to the tridium in the commemoration of Remembrance Sunday a few days following. But…

All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,

All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,

But nearness to death no nearer to God.

Where is the life we have lost in living?

Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?

Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries

Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust

– from “Choruses from the Rock” by T.S. Eliot (1934)