There are a variety of historical origins of Halloween (or All Hallows/Saints Eve), from the ancient Celtic Festival of Samhein, which was all about the dead visiting the living, to the pious Christian celebration of those who have gone before us-beginning with fasting and ending with baptisms and high liturgy.
Many Christians have their knickers in a knot on Halloween because of its potential for demonic emphasis. What do you think?
“Pray with the gift of tears, so that through sorrowing you may tame what is savage in your soul…Prayer is the flower of gentleness and of freedom from anger. Prayer is the fruit of joy and thankfulness. Prayer is the remedy for gloom and despondency. ‘Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor…deny yourself, taking up your cross.’ You will then be free from distraction when you pray. If you wish to pray as you should, deny yourself all the time, and when any kind of affliction troubles you, meditate on prayer.”
St. Makarios of Alexandria, who Tradition says was a successful merchant of fruits and pastries, left everything in 355 to be a monk. It is said about Makarios that ‘for seven years he lived on raw vegetables dipped in water with a few crumbs of bread, moistened with drops of oil on feast days.
It is also said that he once spent 20 days and 20 nights without sleep, burnt by the sun in the day, frozen by bitter desert cold cold at night. “My mind dried up because of lack of sleep, and I had a kind of delirium,” the hermit admitted. “So I gave in to nature and returned to my cell.”
If that was not enough, it is said that he spent six months naked in the marshes, attacked by blood-sucking flies and mosquitoes, in the hope of destroying his last bit of sexual desire. The terrible conditions and attacking insects left him so deformed that when he returned to the monks, they could recognize him only by his voice. It is also said that he had powers of healing.
The monastic and prophetic tradition are full of such things.
Even St. Benedict threw himself naked into a brier patch. Oh, and John the Baptist ate locusts.
What do we learn from ascetic practice? In a world of consumption and indulgence of all kinds, are these saints not living parables?
Or Both? (This is not our roof by the way!)
Our parish is in the proverbial (actually literal) ‘fix the roof’ situation; we have a roof in need of serious repair costing $92 thousand and at the same time we also have great potential for evangelical and justice ministry in our urban parish that has gone under resourced for far too long. We are just beginning to minster to African refugees just down the street, as an example.
What to do? The ‘boat’ is still in a ‘turnaround’ and I am not sure we’re healthy enough for a capital campaign. God seems to be saying ‘wait’ but the facility might not be able to (so what is God really saying?).
Wisdom from the neophytes wanted!
Whenever I run into this quote I simply cannot resist posting it:
“Let yourself be persecuted, but do not persecute others.
Be crucified, but do not crucify others.
Be slandered, but do not slander others.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep: such is the sign of purity.
Suffer with the sick.
Be afflicted with sinners.
Exult with those who repent.
Be the friend of all, but in your spirit remain alone. Be a partaker of the sufferings of all, but keep your body distant from all.
Rebuke no one, revile no one, not even those who live very wickedly.
Spread your cloak over those who fall into sin, each and every one, and shield them.
And if you cannot take the fault on yourself and accept punishment in their place,
do not destroy their character.
What is a merciful heart? It is a heart on fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists. By the recollection of them the eyes of a merciful person pour forth tears in abundance. By the strong and vehement mercy that grips such a person’s heart, and by such great compassion, the heart is humbled and one cannot bear to hear or to see any injury or slight sorrow in any in creation. For this reason, such a person offers up tearful prayer continually even for irrational beasts, for the enemies of the truth, and for those who harm her or him, that they be protected and receive mercy.”
Is this the kind of mercy Jesus describes or is it ‘over the top?’
“God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful as your heavenly Father is merciful.”
Maybe this is the Third Way.
There is a Hebrew prayer, “Tikkun Olam” which is simply a request for God to ‘repair, fix or heal the world.’ There is an old Rabbinic Tale that says, in creation, the universe was unable to contain the Divine Light of God and therefore it cracked into pieces. Henceforth, the creation was imperfect and the goal of the Imago Dei, (humanity) is to bring the world to its perfection, to its completion, to its fullness.
A tall order indeed. But isn’t this the work that Jesus has done? Aren’t we, his body, extentions of his work?
I am frustrated that so many Christians have given up healing and restoring this world. It is as if ‘the Kingdom of heaven is not at hand.’ But if the Kingdom has come upon us in the presence and work of Jesus, then Tikkum Olam is a prayer that can actually be answered. ‘The blind see, the dead walk, the poor have the Good News preached to them!’