Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dia De Los Muertes and other approaching Autumn liturgical commemorations

I was mowing the lawn at home yesterday afternoon; perhaps for the last time this calendar year. My thoughts drifted to the theme of Autumn as I cut the grass. I recalled that children will be coming to house for Halloween candy in a few days. And, All Saints Iconaround the same time, the Church's feasts of All Saints and All Souls will pass by. One of those events is a kinda big deal whereas two enduring religious practices will probably go unnoticed by the majority of people here in the United States.

It's odd isn't it? We've commercialized All Hallow's Eve without realizing that its roots reside principally in ancient and medieval religious holidays. I love chocolate about as much as anybody and it will be cool to hand out candy to the children who come to my door on the 31st. Nonetheless, I wish that we did a better job of recalling our ancestors and their customs.

The Celts Samhaincelebrated Samhain - a harvest festival marking the transition from summer to winter (light to dark). Samhain was also a time to note that the natural cycle of life around them was passing through its own moments of death. They created religious rituals so that living people would benefit from the energies of increase that lead out of death back to life. (Kondratiev, 1997).

Ancient Christians were coincidentally commemorating the lives of the martyrs who were responsible for instituting the faith as well as providing models of living for Jesus' disciples to adhere to in the own communities. Pope Gregory III instituted All Saints Day on the 1st of November when he dedicated an oratory for relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world."Dia de Los Muertos All Saints has been significant liturgical date in the Catholic calendar ever since.

Dia De Los Muertos is a Mexican holiday that occurs on All Saints Day and All Souls Day. Family and friends gather to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died. Traditional activities include building private altars and consuming the favorite foods and beverages of the departed and visiting graves with these as gifts. Costumes are a huge part of the festivities albeit this aspect of "The Day of the Dead" has similarly become commercialized.

Mowing the grass shouldn't probably be such a contemplative practice but living into the realities of our mortality, noticing the change of season, and offering thanks for our religious and familial ancestors should be. We will celebrate All Saints Day at St. James on Nov. 6. In the meantime, what does this Autumn Season mean to you as we pass from the long warm and muggy days of summer to the colder, shorter sunlit moments of Winter? Is there someone in your recent or distant past who profoundly impacted your life and faith. If so, how will you be commemorate their lives on All Saints or All Souls Day? Perhaps there's a family ritual that you can create or maybe you'll want to share a special kind of candy with the children who visit you in their costumes. I don't know but hopefully these autumn days will not pass you by unnoticed nor will God's immanent and loving presence be lost in the Trick or Treats either.

Blessings Along The Way,


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Religious Root Canals

I've spent the last few days pondering the roots of my family and faith. I have dwelt in coincidental moments of bliss, fear, fun, and bewilderment.

For example, we had a wonderful time this last weekend at St. James. Our OctoberBlest celebration was a huge success. The food was excellent. The gift baskets were beautiful! The fellowship was fun and fruitful. It was more than I could have expected and hoped for and reminded me of what a blessing it is to have wise and committed lay leaders and parishioners. We continued with our festivities on Sunday morning. The liturgy was really quite good if I don't say so myself and the music was superb! The choir performed a wonderful rendition of a hymn that was commissioned for the parish on the celebration of its centennial last year. We finished up with a rousing recessional singing of Lead Me, Guide Me. The tune reminded me and others of our Baptist roots. We aren't nearly as good as the Greater Fountain of Life Male Chorus but we surely enjoyed praising our Lord as best as we could.
In sum, it was a wonderful time. Our patron saint, St. James of Jerusalem hopefully would have appreciated the activities we engaged in to honor him and his outreach to the Gentiles. I pray that everything that we accomplished this past weekend may serve as a celebratory and dynamic springboard for accomplishing Jesus Christ's work, prayer, and play in the weeks, months, and years to come.

My thoughts and prayer have not only dwelt on what is happening at the parish where I serve. My mother has been ill for many weeks now. My sister, brother, other relatives, friends, and neighbors celebrated her birthday back in June. She had an automobile accident just a couple of weeks thereafter. She's been in and out of the hospital since that time. Thus, many of us have been wrestling with the difficulties of what to do as our 90-year-old mother's health and spirits are failing. It's not been easy and I'm learning about the experiences that many parishioners have shared with me when their parents' health declines and end-of-life issues surface and require immediate and strategic attention.

The best of times and the worst of times are spiritual and real-world "root canal" events in some ways. Church celebrations allow church members to recognize the difficulties of the past, the realities of the present, and the hopes for the future. We celebrate the dreams and inspiration that our ancestors have offered to us while fully knowing that our common life with one another has never been easy and often been complicated. Nonetheless we seize upon the opportunity to offer our thanks, raise money for our mission, and move forward with our faith and trust in a loving and blessed God who has brought us this far and will us and those that follow in the future even further.

On a personal level, my familial circumstances are not indifferent. We are coming to a crossroads when each and all of us will have to reconcile the realities of our paths, gather with one another to be with, and encourage one another in the uncertainties of today, and assess what steps lie ahead and should be trod. The root canal metaphor especially works in this case because family dynamics are never with wounds. Cleansing, forgiveness, and healing need to occur. Bandages, and in some cases, long term infectious, compassionate control needs to offered and received. It's intriguing in my own experience because almost all families, including mine, are in need of Jesus Christ's re-conciliatory Grace. Repentance and return to The Lord hand in hand needs to occur. Spiritual and real world root canals hurt. However the operation itself and the time thereafter provide clean and sacred moments for improved health and contentment to occur.

Each day of living seemingly provides us a palette of emotional shades to behold and belong in. How we experience God within the 525,600 minutes of each year presents the basis for the ways in which we live our lives.
For Christians, our births, our trials, our triumphs, our temptations, our turbulent times, and our times of total happiness reside in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus the Christ who came into the world so that we might experience God's love, compassion, and hope more fully with our families and churches alike.

Blessings Along The Way, Jim+