This weekend, as we approach an extraordinarily important Election Day on November 3, we commence the sacred AllHallowstide triduum:
• Halloween (the eve of All Hallows Day, All Saints’ or All Holy Ones’ Day) on October 31.
• The Principal Feast of All Saints Day on November 1.
• The Feast of All Souls’ Day on November 2.
In Latino communities influenced by cultural practices in Mexico and areas of Brazil, there may be added a Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), with no universally designated date but celebrated separately on or near one of the dates of above.
From an anthropological, sociological, or theological standpoint, these observances appear to emanate from an appreciation of the importance of our forebears: They are the ones who ordered our society and taught future generations to follow through accordingly. They are the ones who instructed us in faith, and most importantly, who taught us to love one another (universally and unconditionally), bearing in mind that expressing love can often best be accomplished by establishing boundaries. Those values reflect and are stimulated by:
• The covenantal mandate given by the Divine as the 5th Commandment: to honor our father and mother or those who have served in loco parentis or otherwise are in positions of authority.and
• The early categorical imperative in the Holiness Code in Leviticus, Chapter 19, where the Almighty commands: “Show respect for old people and honor them.”
To that I would add, “remember all of a salutary nature that they taught us and perhaps continue to teach us and expect us to teach future generations.”
One of the most touching liturgies I have had the privilege of presiding over was the weekday evening service after the last of the triduum. It was “A Liturgy of Special Remembrance on this Day of the Dead.” The high altar was adorned by a single candle on each side so that parishioners’ eyes could see, and recognize as holy, a “sub-altar” set up on the few stairs below. A dozen parishioners had placed memorial “icons” on it. These were items to aid remembrance of a loved one. They included a favorite food, favorite photographs, a baseball glove and an umpire’s mask.
Most important, each of the parishioners who helped adorn the “sub-altar” spoke briefly, but passionately, to honor the icon-referenced individual. Some of the participants led a few verses of a favorite hymn. I prayed here and there seeking to affirm the understanding that there is some good in everyone, and “a wideness in God’s mercy.”
– The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., J.D., LL.D., D. Min., K.St.J, is Washington National Cathedral Priest Scholar and Chaplain, and he previously served churches in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands.