All Hallow's Eve... or Halloween... or Samhain, as my pagan friends call it, has come and gone and today is its companion in the Church calendar: All Saints Day.
As Fr. Lee Graham noted in a recent homily, the Church has made All Saints into a day when we remember those who have gone before us as if they are in some far away place. In reality, if we were to pay attention to the rubric of many pagan beliefs, its not that the saints are far away; they are actually quite close because the veil between the worlds is pierced. Or, as Fr. Graham was describing it, the separation between the living and dead is "a thin spot" at this time of year, one where we feel the presence of our ancestors more than at other times.
There is some comfort for me in knowing that there is a time when those who have left this earthly realm draw closer to us in celebration. In my own understanding, as of November 1, 2009, the major difference between those who are considered the "living" vs. the ones who are "dead" is the body. Those still considered "alive" have physical bodies; the dead do not. Unless they are zombies in search of brains. However, even in death, I believe, there is still something else. My deep sense is that once the soul has turned out the lights in the body... its destination is another stage of life. In my belief, it is a life in Christ and God and the Holy Spirit... another step in the journey toward reunion in God. Do I know this for a fact? Heck no! I haven't died and left this body yet! And I don't have a particular desire to find out any time soon. But I do think its plausible. Our view of what is life is limited by our own bodily experience. But just because a body no longer has a soul, I think the soul goes on to a new life even as the body goes back to the earth.
I have something of "living" proof that out death comes life: my funny-looking, skinny cat Ziggy died very suddenly about three years ago. We buried him in the front and marked his grave with a rose plant. Just a couple days ago, a bud emerged and is now beginning to bloom... just in time for All Saints day.
Seeing this, and thinking about the baptisms slated for our services, the idea of the "thin spots" seems very real!
The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon assigned for this Sunday is the same reading we had at my dad's funeral: "The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them." Although applied to the dead, I think this is equally as applicable to the living. "Those who put their trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones, and he watches over his elect." God is watching over both worlds: those who are among the living and those who are the dead... both on earth and in heaven. Are we doing those things that we should be doing to keep us abiding in love and understanding truth? Are we doing justice, loving kindness and walking humbly with God?