Halloween, or All Hallows Eve is typically among my least favorite days of the year. I fall into the category of overly sensitive to everything (the nice way to say it is “highly sensitive person”), and especially to all things spiritual. Halloween is the one day of the year in North America where it seems that the intense contrasts between darkest and light are most visibly on display, and navigating the images, energy and thoughts that that brings with it can be rather exhausting for me.
This year, All Hallows Eve happens to also mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenburg, Germany, and effectively beginning a split in the Christian world that remains prominent and continues to multiply to this day. As a church history major with a specialization in reformation history, and a convert to Catholicism who is divided in faith from those I love most by that schism, I’ve been feeling this approaching anniversary rather deeply this year as well.
All of this was on my mind as I headed to mass tonight, planning to stay for the hour or so of adoration offered in my parish on Tuesday nights. My thoughts and prayers however, were hijacked by the first reading at mass tonight, and I couldn’t help but think how truly appropriate this reading was for a day where the world celebrates masks, darkness and fear, and a day on which many are recognizing with either joy or grief the anniversary of the Reformation. The reading was Romans 8:18-25, but I found myself caught particularly by these lines:
We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labour pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
How appropriate to be reminded on this day that all of creation is groaning, labouring, working to give birth to something new, to be born into the fullness of God’s redemption. How appropriate to be reminded that this groaning is not only in creation, but in each of us as well. Eugene Peterson translates today’s reading as follows:
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us, it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. (Romans 8:22-25)
I’ve never borne a child, but I’ve journeyed with many who have, have been privileged in my job to bear witness to birth, and to regularly gather a babe only an hour or two old into my arms. I needed the reminder on this night that though the pains seem unending, though the groaning of creation and the groaning within myself for redemption seem at times as though they will destroy me, these are pains of expectancy and joy – they are pains of birthing the new work that Christ is doing, that they are enlarging me and making me ready for all that is new and whole and complete.