And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” – Revelation 14:13
Last night on Halloween, I settled in at my friend Robyn's to watch some spoofy spooky movies with our friends. We were supposed to watch two movies, but we were too enthralled by Vampire Academy to make it to Death Becomes Her, a movie I’ve never seen but I’ve heard has a campy cult following. Death Becomes Her. I love the double meaning of that phrase. Death looks good on her, and, also, she becomes death. Doesn’t death, eventually, become us all?
Though life must, by definition, end in death, it’s remarkable how little our culture does to honor and celebrate our loved ones who have died. Death is a subject that’s largely avoided except in talking about the way someone died.
But not today. Today is All Saints Day, a day to celebrate and honor those who have gone on before us. According to Catholic.org, different cultures and denominations celebrate All Saints Day differently. It’s considered a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church, meaning you’re obliged to attend mass, and there’s a focus on traditionally celebrated Saints. In Mexican culture, this day is called Dia de Muertos or Day of the Dead, and it’s a 3-day celebration during which there are parades and people create shrines to lost loved ones. Throughout Europe, many people visit cemeteries and bring flowers and gifts to their deceased family and friends on this day.
Methodists and other Protestant denominations also celebrate All Saints Day. In an article on the United Methodist Church website, it’s explained that John Wesley particularly enjoyed All Saints Day. In multiple journal entries over the years Wesley describes the day as “a festival I truly love,” “a day that I peculiarly love,” and also says, “I always find this a comfortable day.” The website goes on to explain that followers of Christ have always believed that the faith includes not only those believers of the day, but all those who have gone on before us in the faith. They cite the “great cloud of witnesses” mentioned in Hebrews 12, a gathering of our foremother and fathers of faith who give us encouragement. (I wrote about how my ancestors by blood and by faith give me comfort in this previous post.)
At my local church, we have an All Saints Sunday the Sunday after All Saints Day. I remember the first time I celebrated All Saints Sunday at my current church. During one of the songs, we were invited to stand if we had a loved one who passed away over the previous year. It was a moving time. Though I didn’t stand that year, I was moved by the many in our congregation who stood and the tears in their eyes, as they honored their loved ones.
I don’t always take the time to honor my loved ones who have gone on before me, so I’m thankful for this reminder on All Saints Day to remember my granny, my Grandpa Underwood, my Grandaddy Anderson, my Grandpa Stuckwisch, my Grandma Zehmer, and my Aunt Lilly as well as New Orleans students I have lost: Chris, Aaron, Shone, Darius, and Kenneth. May they rest in the peace of Christ.
What about you? Do you celebrate All Saints Day with traditions or remembrances? Are there other ways you honor the dead? Thanks for reading, and I’ll catch you next time!