“Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many homes. If it weren’t so, I would have told you. I am going to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will receive you to myself; that where I am, you may be there also. Where I go, you know, and you know the way.” John 14:1 – 4
Before I can tell you what this holiday is I have to go back to when it starts. Long ago, to mark the changing of the seasons the Church instituted the Ember Days. Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, close to or before the change of the season. Ember Days are the days of preparation, marked with prayer, fasting or abstinence. The Winter Ember Days are the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday before Halloween. Spiritual preparation is the real key.
But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what watch of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore also be ready, for in an hour that you don’t expect, the Son of Man will come. Matthew 24:43-44
Now that you are spiritually prepared for the season of Winter. what is Halloween, really?
Well, that is a bit complicated. It started as a Celtic New Year festival called Samhain. Contrary to popular thought Samhain was not the Celtic god of death. There was no Celtic god by that name nor was there a god of death. Samhain was new years and it literally meant sam –“Summer”, hain “Ending”. It was the first day of winter. This is another time of year when the veil between the worlds of the Spirit and the physical world is the thinnest. The dead and the living can influence each other more strongly. So is that what we celebrate as well?
The earliest form of All Saints Day (or “All Hallows”) was first celebrated in the 300s, but originally took place on 13 May, as it still does in some Eastern Churches. The Feast first commemorated the martyrs, but came to include all of the Saints by 741. It was transferred to 1 November in 844 when Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica to All Saints.
All Souls Day, however, has its origins in A.D. 1048 when the Bishop of Cluny decreed that the Benedictines of Cluny pray for the souls in Purgatory on this day. The practice spread until Pope Sylvester II recommended it for the entire Latin Church.
Pope Sixtus IV in 1484 established November 1 as a holyday of obligation and gave it both a vigil (known today as “All Hallows’ Eve” or “Hallowe’en”) and an eight-day period, or octave, to celebrate the feast. By 1955, the octave of All Saints was removed. Although we still have the colors. The color orange to represent purity and generosity (i.e. fire) of those who are now cleansed through Purgatory and are in Heaven. Black for mourning that they are no longer with us physically and sometime you will see purple which represents the spiritual nature of the holiday giving us hope that we will see our loved ones again.
November 2 was the date designated to pray for all the departed souls in Purgatory, the Feast of All Souls. The feasts of All Saints and All Souls fall back to back to express the Christian belief of the “Communion of Saints.” The Communion of Saints is the union of all the faithful on earth (the Church Militant), the saints in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and the Poor Souls in Purgatory (the Church Suffering), with Christ as the Head. They are bound together by a supernatural bond, and we can help one another. The Church Militant (those on earth still engaged in the struggle to save their souls) can venerate the Church Triumphant, and those saints can intercede with God for those still on earth. Both the faithful on earth and the saints in heaven can pray for the souls in Purgatory. During these two days (no longer eight days) we see the Communion of Saints really in action!
Peace be with you.