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,


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