Welcome to church on All Hallows’ Eve! Welcome to church on All Hallows’ Sunday!
Hallow-ed be thy name – we pray — on the first of God’s seven days each week. Hallow-ed is a wonderful, archaic, and almost spooky word for holy.
I confess to you that I am crazy about all-things All Hallows; almost as crazy as I am about Christmas. The combination of crisp fall weather, carving pumpkins, crackling leaves, the communion of saints, scary movies, and wandering spirits — stirs up both the dark and the light in me.
As a kid, on the eve of the feast, I recall the lure of being outside at bedtime, walking under the stars, and trick-or-treating trailing behind my big brother Tim. And I remember too, haunting and lovely November 1st visits to Cedar Hill Cemetery to lay flowers on my grandfathers’ graves.
As a mom, all of these years later, I can still vividly picture Colleen dressing up as some-kind-of princess three years running. Zach’s holiday attire as a mummy, Dracula, and from The Munsters, little vampire Eddy. And my youngest Jacob’s graduating from a turtle to a Teenage Ninja Turtle, to a teenage punk rocker.
As a young curate, right out of seminary, I remember the Halloween lock-ins that I use to organize at St. Luke’s. An all-night, overnight, youth group spook-tacular. Staying up for for twelve hours straight with a couple of dozen adolescents. It seemed like a great idea at the time.🎃🎃🎃
Costumes were required. Jack-o-lanterns were carved. Blindfolded, we passed around peeled grape eyeballs and cold spaghetti guts, as scary stories were told. A dozen pizzas were delivered and devoured. And at midnight, we headed into the church.
Leave it to the Episcopal Church to actually have a liturgy for All Hallows’ Eve. (It’s in the Book of Occasional Services, of course.🎃)
Before processing into the pumpkin-lit nave, by the light of the moon, visiting a cemetery was an option, if there was one nearby.
The church service starts with this snippet from Psalm 31:
If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me, and the light around me turn to night,” darkness is not dark to you, O Lord; the night is as bright as the day; darkness and light are to you both alike.
Then follows the collect for All Hallows:
Let us pray. Lord Christ, your saints have been the lights of the world in every generation; grant that we who follow in their footsteps, may be made worthy to enter with them into that heavenly country where you live and reign forever. Amen.
(The King James Version is the spookiest.🎃)
And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God, thou knowest.
Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.
So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.
And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, “Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.“
So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet.
And then this ancient prayer we would intone, the Phos Hilaron:
O gracious light,
pure brightness of the everliving Father in heaven,
O Jesus Christ, holy and blessed!
Now as we come to the setting of the sun,
and our eyes behold the vesper light,
we sing your praises, O God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And finally as our savior has taught us,
Our Father, who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
And hallow-ed be the names of faithful souls who walked the way of the Lord: Many, of course, you have heard of: Peter and Paul, Joseph and Mary, Andrew and Bartholomew, a couple of apostles. And some maybe not: Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen. Pauli Murray and Frances Perkins.
All Hallows – also means All Saints, all the holy people. It is an ancient day on the church calendar for baptisms – a day for welcoming new souls into the household of God.
And here is something a little spooky thing about baptism you may not know (but stars in your crown, if you do!) In the early church, candidates underwent forty days of daily exorcisms before they were baptized on Easter Eve. Better for the Holy Spirit to take hold, I guess, if they could get all the skeletons to come out of your closet and to sweep all of your cobwebs out of the way — before you went down under the water.
Could there be a more splendid day to christen little Wesley than All Hallows’ Eve? I can’t imagine any day better. So this October 31st, this Feast of All Saints, we’ll pour a little water over his head with this simple service adapted from the New Zealand Book of Common Prayer.
The Rev. Joani Peacock, Editor for Emmanuel Voices: A Parish Blog