The View from the Vicarage

The View from the Vicarage

The month of October often feels very like much like the Autumn season has begun in earnest, and this year, after such an amazing summer it will feel and be a contrast indeed.  As we watch leaves fluttering to the ground, we are reminded that nature’s cycles are mirrored in our lives. Autumn is a time for letting go and releasing things that have been a burden. All the major religious traditions pay tribute to such acts of relinquishment. Autumn or the Fall as our American cousins call it, is the right time to practice getting out of the way and letting the Holy Spirit take charge of our lives.

Autumn reminds us of the impermanence of everything. We have experienced the budding of life in spring and the flowerings and profusions of summer. Now the leaves fall and bare branches remind us of the fleeting nature of all things. Jewish rabbi and writer Harold Kushner in his well known book The Lord Is My Shepherd suggests that when we contemplate Autumn’s changes, we grow more appreciative of all the beauties that surround us.

In the Christian Church, the autumnal season sees us move into two major festivals that come right at the beginning of November – All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These festivals fall on November 1st and 2nd respectively. 
Many people of course love to celebrate Halloween – October 31st, in fact it is one of those very American customs to really take off in the UK over recent years. Halloween is not just about spooky things. The day after Halloween is known by many different names… All Saints’ Day, All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmass. Whatever you call it, November 1st every year is a day for remembering Christian saints and martyrs and celebrating them with festivals and church services held in their honour.

All Souls’ Day meanwhile is a date to remember those who are now deceased. Offering prayers for those who have died is ancient in origin. In the Old Testament’s Second Book of Maccabees, written around 100 B.C. Judas Maccabeus orders his army to pray and offer sacrifices on behalf of their fallen comrades. Tombs found in the Roman catacombs are inscribed with prayer requests for the deceased.  
In our Churches today we still recall our departed loved ones, and we invite all the families and friends of those who have died during the past year to join us for a special act of remembering in SS Peter & Paul Church in Kirton at 7:00pm on Friday November 2nd. At that service we read aloud the names of the departed and families are gently encouraged to come forward and light a candle as a reminder of their loved ones.

The fear of letting go of our notion of a limited self is very real. We are all afraid of death. Any death. All death. Letting go of this earthly life is frightening. Letting go of any prejudice, any preconceived notion, any notion of identity is a form of death. As many wise sages have told us, we come into this world covered in faeces, urine, and blood; we leave it naked covered in a cloth. The mere reflection on our own mortality frightens us. Most of us spend our life in denial, pretending that we are eternally immortal.  But just stop and think – What beauty there is in letting go and accepting.  What wonder there is in embracing the colours inside ourselves. What loveliness there is in the death of one colour, and the shining through of all the divine colours.  How lovely is this human creature when the divine colours of compassion, kindness, mercy, justice, and forgiveness shine on through. I believe it was for this we were born!

Fr Paul