The true meaning of the day after Halloween

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For many, today is a day to sort through the sacks of candy the kiddos brought home, perhaps liberate a few of the choicest morsels for Mom and Dad, and set the rest aside to be thrown out sometime around Christmas.

But, other than the obvious excuse to eat way too much candy, why do we observe Halloween? And, more importantly, what does that mean for today — the day after Halloween?

In a religious sense, our perception of those days is backward. Today is All Saints’ Day — traditionally also known as All Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas. The day before All Hallows’ Day was, dating back to the 8th Century, All Hallows’ Eve.

All Saints’ Day remains, for many Christians, a feast day, on which we celebrate the Communion of All Saints. These saints are, but also are far more than, the saints you may know — St. Matthew, St. John, et al. The saints we celebrate on All Saints’ Day are all Christian saints — all those who have fought the good fight in faith and risen in glory to Christ.

These saints are commemorated in Revelation 7: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands … For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’ ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’” (Revelation 7:9,17)

All Saints’ Day, then, is a day to reflect on and honor all in the Body of Christ who have gone before us — those who have risen from the temporal struggle in the Church Militant to reside in glory in the Church Triumphant.

Like many feast days of the Church, All Saints’ Day traditionally was preceded by a vigil of prayer and fasting the night before, to prepare mind, body and spirit — as one — for the special intention and importance of the feast day.

All Hallows’ Eve, then, was a night of special prayer, with the focused intent of honoring All Saints.

Unfortunately, like many babies thrown out with the bath water in the Reformation, All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day were widely pushed underground for being “too Catholic” or, to be more accurate, “too Orthodox.”

What we’re left, with God stripped from these days, in place of once-solemn days of prayer and liturgy, is a commercialized extravaganza of candy wrappers and stomach aches.

But, as they say, “everything old is new again.” Catholic, Orthodox or Protestant, there should be nothing to prevent taking time and special intention today, on All Saints’ Day — in your own way — to honor the Body of Christ.

And next Halloween, if you find yourself bemoaning the secular nature and macabre tone of the day, take some time to keep vigil in prayer for this day, as we strive to attain the ranks of the saints.

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