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Homily for 10/28/12 - P21 - halloween

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  • Fr David Moser
    Luke 8:5-15 & Gal 2:16-20 Later this week comes the worldly festival of “Halloween”. Many of the customs associated with this festival come from the depths
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 27, 2012
      Luke 8:5-15 & Gal 2:16-20
      Later this week comes the worldly festival of “Halloween”. Many of the
      customs associated with this festival come from the depths of the past,
      mostly from pre-Christian pagan practices and possibly even from demonic
      worship. There are many stories about how these customs came to be
      practiced in a multitude of cultures and for each of the stories there
      are many others which are completely different. It is impossible to
      construct a single “true” account of the festival we now call “
      Halloween”, however, it is without doubt a festival that draws its
      origins from the pre-Christian pagan past of countries that later were
      brought the light of Christ. Another thing that can be said about the
      customs of “Halloween” is that these customs are all rooted in the fear
      of death and of the dead. For this reason alone, setting aside all the
      other theories about spiritism and demonic worship, it is inappropriate
      for Orthodox Christians to engage in this festival. It is inappropriate
      because we do not fear death, nor do we fear those who have died. We
      know that death has been conquered and that it no longer has any power
      or hold over us. We know that to be absent from the body is to be in the
      presence of Christ (which can be fearful in its own right). We know that “Christ is Risen from
      the dead, trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs
      bestowing life.” Those who have died in Christ we now lift up in prayer
      that their souls may find rest in the choirs of the saints. Some of
      those who have died in Christ are those very saints to whom we turn in
      prayer seeking help and assistance in working out our own salvation. Why
      should we fear them? Instead we honor them with our love and friendship.
      Therefore a festival which is rooted in the fear of death and of the
      dead has no place in the life of an Orthodox Christian.
      What then should we do? Halloween is such a pervasive event in our
      modern society, an event that on one hand seems to have divorced itself
      from its pagan roots, but which on the other hand continues to draw upon
      the fear of death and the dead, that it seems we can’t avoid it.
      Children enjoy the excuse to dress up and to get candy from the ritual
      of “trick or treat”. Pumpkins are there for the carving; corn mazes and
      haunted houses abound; the thrill of being scared by horror stories and
      films is hard to avoid. We cannot run from Halloween for it is all
      around us. If we look at the response of the Church to these festivals
      and customs in a time when they were a more overt response to the fear
      of death can be instructive to us. The very name of this festival,
      “Halloween” is a clue to our best response. The word “Halloween” (or
      perhaps the full term “hallowed evening”) is a reference to the term
      “All Hallows Eve” for that is what the Church did with this festival.
      Throughout history the Church has taken in pagan festivals and adapted
      them to her own purposes – converting them if you will. Christmas and
      Theophany – the twin feasts of light in the Church – are laid over on
      top of the pagan rituals surrounding the winter solstice when those who
      worshipped the sun, seeing the shortening of the days, sought to entice
      it to return for another year. The created light of the sun was replaced
      and overpowered by the coming of the eternal light of the world, Jesus
      Christ. The same approach was taken with this festival of the dead. The
      dread of those who had died was replaced by the Church with the
      celebration of all the saints (and so in the west the day after
      Halloween is All Saints Day). The eve of the feast (Halloween) would be
      celebrated in the Church with the vigil of All the Saints – the perfect
      love of Christ which shone in the lives of the saints casts out the fear
      of death and of the dead. On Halloween, we can choose to be in the
      Church, celebrating the memory of the saints rather than participating
      in the remnants of ancient rituals designed stave off the fear of death
      and of the haunting of the dead.
      The Fathers frequently exhort us to be mindful of our own mortality and
      to always keep before our awareness the thought of one’s own death. This
      remembrance of death is not to implant fear in us of the coming of our
      own death, but to keep us vigilant for we know that when we do die, we
      will stand before the throne of God. Therefore, by recalling our death,
      we protect ourselves from the temptations to the indulgence of the
      passions and desires of our self will and fallen nature and are inspired
      rather to prepare ourselves so that we will have “a good defense before
      the dread judgment seat of Christ.”
      In the readings today we heard the parable of the sower and the seed.
      This image of seeds falling to the ground and growing, taking root and
      producing fruit also calls to mind the words of the Savior that unless a
      grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it
      dies, it produces much grain. Also in the epistle we heard the apostle
      tell us that he has been crucified with Christ and so has died to the
      law that Christ might live in him and that he might live with Christ.
      The life which he now lives is the life of Christ. When we come to
      Christ we sacrifice our own lives, we die to the world and to ourselves
      and in return we receive the life of Christ that lives in us. We have
      died with Christ and are raised with Him. By sacrificing our own lives,
      we have passed through death and death no longer can hold us, for the
      life that we now have is the eternal life of Christ.
      Many times over the next week we will be confronted with fearful images
      of death. But these images need not disturb us, for death no longer has
      power over us. Rather than fear the dead, we now pray for them and ask
      for the intercessions and help of the saints who stand before the throne
      of God. We are filled with the life of Christ and this festival of fear
      and death has no place in our lives.

      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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