All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day (Mellowed feelings and a celebration)

It’s a bit past midnight, and we’ve crossed the threshold from what is probably my least favorite day of the year, to the day that is definitely near the top of my list of days worth celebrating every year.  What I’m saying is that I dislike Halloween with a passion, and that November 1st, All Saints Day, the day I mark a significant anniversary of healing in my life is a day I find worthy of celebration.

I do have to say that my hatred of all things Halloween has mellowed over the last few years.  It’s a hatred that sprang from years of deep sensitivity to the spiritual realm, and an awareness that the atmosphere of that particular day each year felt dark, heavy and overwhelming.  That said, thanks to age and experience, I’ve learned to manage my sensitivity to all things spiritual in the past few years, learned that not everything that assaults my awareness needs active engagement, and with that learning comes peace.

Enough peace that I had to smile when this Facebook status from two years ago popped up in the TimeHop app today:

timehop oct 31 2014

It’s been nine years since that day I referenced, the last time I “celebrated” Halloween.  That particular evening was fun, and crazy, and full of darkness too.  What I remember most about it was that, after driving a friend home from our evening together, something broke inside of me, and after months of stagnant silence in my prayer life I spent the return drive yelling at God, railing at him, asking why this God who I believed healed and intervened seemed so distant in my very broken life.

I dressed up that year, contrary to my habit, because a friend was hosting a party a few days before Halloween, prodded me into attending, and told me that I had a choice – I could either wear a costume or dance.  Both choices were (and are!) anathema, but I decided a costume was the less horrendous of the two, since it kept me off the dance floor!  I temporarily dyed my hair red and styled it curly, borrowed a set of scrubs and a stethoscope from a friend, and showed up at the party. (I successfully avoided the dance floor, and bailed early when the party switched locations from a house to a downtown nightclub.)  A few nights later, on Halloween, the same friend and a few others came over to my home for dinner, then talked me into dressing up again, this time as a bride, and doing a host of silly and crazy things (including walking into a jewelery store in a local mall, in full wedding dress paraphernalia, on the arm of a crazily dressed friend, while he loudly proclaimed, “I need a ring! Quick!”) The memory makes me smile for the very reason I reference in the TimeHop status – nine years later I am now a registered nurse who regularly dyes red highlights into the hair that I often style to play up my natural curls.  The only thing missing is the wedding ring and the fiancée!

That said, despite the happy moments, it is the howling at God that sprang from deep within me that I remember most about that night nine years ago.  The soul cries that refused to be satisfied, and how they led to one of the most important moments of my spiritual life on November 1, 2005.

I’ve written about that day in other places (here, here, and here), and I don’t want to rehash the details here.  I’ll simply say this – on that day I met Jesus in a real and crazy way that I’d never experienced before, and my life changed course.  I was given freedom from a darkness that had threatened to snuff my life out entirely, and I was plunged into an awareness of a spiritual world that my previous experience had only ever hinted at.  The nine years since that day have been marked by ongoing healing, by growth, by wrestling, by learning how to live and manage the sensitivities that those experiences and many that followed awakened within me.

There is a special beauty for me as a Catholic in looking back and seeing that that day of healing came on the day where we celebrate the entire communion of saints. It makes me smile to think of all of heaven watching and celebrating as the friend I spent that evening with gently ushered me in front of the throne of grace and waited with me as healing and freedom settled in. It makes me smile to share this special day in my journey of faith with the day in which we pause as a church to remember all of those who have gone before and modelled what it is to walk with God.

As I think about that night nearly a decade ago, the scripture that springs to mind to describe these nine years is this one from the letter to the Hebrews, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

If there has been anything that these nine years have been about, it is this – the continual process, encouraged ever forward by the great cloud of witnesses, of throwing off those things that entangle and persevering through all sorts of things towards a life with Jesus.

It seems appropriate to close with this, a sonnet from Malcolm Guite, an English poet who has written a series of sonnets for the entirety of the church year.  He posted this sonnet for All Saints, and it so nicely encompasses my experience of both Halloween and my healing anniversary on All Saints that I can’t help but share it.  I do urge you, though, to click through to the original post from Guite, and listen to a recording of him reading the sonnet – it adds a great deal of depth and beauty.

All Saints (Malcolm Guite)

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards

Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,

It glances from the eyes, kindles the words

Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright

With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,

The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.

Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing

He weaves them with us in the web of being

They stand beside us even as we grieve,

The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,

Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above

The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,

To triumph where all saints are known and named;

The gathered glories of His wounded love.

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