Is Halloween a Holy Day?

H/T: Fox News here

It’s the end of a October, and the witches and goblins will be out soon. But is Halloween a pagan holiday?

Historians have said that Halloween originated from the Ancient Celtic pagan holiday called Samhain, also called the “Day of the Dead.”  They believed that on this day the souls of the dead were allowed access into the “land of the dead.”

The name Halloween is derived from “All Hallows Eve,” or the night preceding “All Saint’s (Hallows’) Day.”

Catholic bishops in the UK are reminding trick or treaters of this relationship with the Holy Day. They’re backing an initiative called “Night of Light,” which encourages Christians to place a light in their window on Halloween to give witness that they are followers of Jesus Christ.

The “Night of Light” is the inspiration of Damian Stayne, who says it is meant to “reclaim Halloween as a joyful Christian celebration.”

Stayne points out that Halloween or “All Hallows Eve” is the vigil, or the night before the Feast of All Saints. November 1, All Saints Day, is a holiday in most Catholic countries.

All Saints Day, Stayne says, is the “feast in which Catholics celebrate the glory of God in his saints, the victory of light over darkness in the lives of God’s holy ones in heaven.”

Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton notes that Halloween is the biggest commercial festival after Christmas and Easter. “It’s time we reminded Christians of what it really is,” he says.


There’s been quite a bit of excitement in the parish here. The day before our little Milica was born we started our fresco project in the church. Of course, there are no plans of finishing the church as of yet but in time we’re hoping that little by little we’ll get there.

See more photos here. Photos will be updated on an almost daily basis. I haven’t been taking pictures before because the iconographer was working on the Pantocrator and the scaffolding blocked the view.  Enjoy.

Righteous anger

From the Pastoral Ponderings of Fr. Patrick Reardon (from the archives, Feb. 7, 2010)

Anger is troublesome. Among Christians striving seriously to live the mandates of the Gospel, I wager, anger is the sin most often mentioned in the Sacrament of Confession. Alas, it also has a remarkably long shelf life.

High among the problems attending anger is this: In the classical inventories of the passions, anger is the only one with no opposite impulse. Each of the other passions is paired with a reciprocal antithesis: love is matched by hatred, desire by aversion, hope by despair, fear by boldness, and joy by sorrow. Only anger stands by itself, with no corresponding emotive pull in the opposite direction (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica Ia IIae q. 25, art. 3). If you get angry, you’re just stuck with it until it goes away!

Another problem with anger is that it is not, in every instance, a thing to be avoided. This is hardly surprising, since the morally proper object (finis) of anger is justice. Indeed, life in this world presents occasions when the refusal to become angry is likely a moral defect.

Another problem with anger, I believe, is that some Christians entertain unreasonable expectations with respect to it. For instance, in Confession they repent of “correcting children in anger.” I admit, of course, that children can be (and often are) emotionally harmed by parental displays of anger, and none of us would say that it a good thing. On the other hand, it would hardly be preferable for children to grow up with no experienced memory of anger as an expected response to bad behavior.

One of the most common misunderstandings about anger is the assumption that at some point in our experience of irritation it is morally permissible to blow our stacks: some kind of righteous “boiling point,” as it were. We differ among ourselves about where that point should be placed, but most of us implicitly conjecture that such a point does exist. That is to say, we presume that nobody—not even God—should require us to tolerate an unlimited amount of provocation. At some notch in our strained endurance, we presume, anger becomes a righteous response.

This presumption is illusory. The righteousness of righteous anger is qualitative, not quantitative: It is determined by its formal and final cause, which is justice, not by the measure of irritation that arouses it. Anger does not become righteous by reason of its accumulated provocations. I know it is painful to hear this—and it is no less painful to say it—but there is no point in our cultivation of patience where “I’ve had enough” becomes the rallying cry of righteousness.

Offhand I think of two biblical stories that demonstrate this point:

The first concerns Moses, about whom the Psalmist said that the Israelites “became provocative at the waters of Meribah, and it went badly for Moses on their account.” What, exactly, did Moses do? “He spoke rashly with his lips” (Psalms 106 [105]:32).

Having endured the ceaseless murmurings of the Israelites for forty years, Moses finally declared, “I’ve had enough!” Commanded by the Lord to “speak to the rock before their eyes,” Moses “said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod” (Numbers 20:7-11).

That was it—the single offense that kept Moses from entering the Holy Land. If ever a man might be excused for blowing his stack, I would have imagined, it was certainly Moses at the waters of Meribah. Obviously, however, the Lord took a different view.

The second example concerns David, when he was sorely provoked by Nabal (1 Samuel 25). Having used up his entire stock of patience with Saul in the previous chapter, David suddenly found himself without inner spiritual resources when confronted with the moral obtuseness of a man whose own wife described him as a worthless fool.

In this particular case, the Lord used that wife, Abigail, to prevent David from following through with his rash and angry threat. Otherwise, surely, David would have sinned like Moses, and like Moses he would have been punished. As the anger of Moses kept him from leading Israel into the Promised Land, David’s anger might have kept him from occupying Israel’s throne.

This lesson about anger is a hard one to hear: At no point does grievous provocation become a righteous cause.

Degrees of success

Unlike Luke’s version of the Parable of the Sower, which we read in church this morning, Matthew doesn’t merely say that those on the good ground “yielded a crop a hundredfold” rather he is more specific and writes: “But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” St. Cyril of Alexandria, in his Commentary on St. Luke, writes the following:

“Observe, therefore, that just as Christ described three degrees of loss, so similarly the degrees of success are equal in number.  For those seed that fell upon the pathway are snatched away by the birds; and those upon the rocks, and those among the thorns are choked. But that desirable land brings forth fruit in three several degrees, as I said, a hundred, sixty, and thirtyfold. For as most wise Paul writes, Each one severally of us has his own gift from God, one in one manner, and another in another. For we do not at all find that the successes of the saints are in equal measure. On us, however, it it incumbent to emulate these things that are better and superior to those of meaner kind; for so will Christ bountifully bestow happiness upon us…”

The Right Reading of Scripture

Fr. John Behr, dean of St. Vladimir’s Academy, is visiting Serbia where he delivered a lecture earlier this week which you can read about here. Pictured above is Fr. John visiting with His Holiness Patriarch Irinej together with Bishop Atanasije (Rakita), vicar to the Patriarch and Bishop Maxim of Western America.

The following is taken from his book Formation of Christian Theology. Volume 1: The Way to Nicea, which, by the way, you can read more from here:

“…The picture of an originally pure orthodoxy, manifest in exemplary Christian communities, from which various heresies developed and split off, as it was presented for instance in the book of Acts and, in the fourth century, in the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius of Ceasarea, has become increasingly difficult to maintain, especially since the work of Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. And rightly so: the earliest Christian writings that we have, the letters of Paul, are addressed to churches already falling away from the Gospel which he had delivered to them.

….Debates certainly raged from the beginning about the correct interpretation of this Gospel; it is a mistake to look back to the early Church hoping to find a lost golden age of theological or ecclesiastical purity – whether in the apostolic times as narrated in the book of Acts, or the early Church, as recorded by Eusebius, or the age of the Fathers of the Church Councils, or the Empire of Byzantium. Nevertheless, the Gospel was delivered, once for all. However, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Gospel of the Coming One and accordingly the citizenship of Christians is not on earth but in heaven, from which they await their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. In life manner the Gospel is not located in a specific text; what came to be recognized as “canonical” Gospels are always described as “The Gospel according to…” The Gospel is not fixed in a particular text, but, as we will see, in an interpretative relationship to the Scriptures – the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets.

Inseparable from the debates about which works were to count as Scripture,was the issue of the correct interpretation of Scripture. Not only was there a commitment to a body of Scripture, but there was also the affirmation that there is a correct reading of Scripture, or more exactly, that there is a correct canon for reading Scripture, a canon expressing the hypothesis of Scripture itself. Even if it was expressed in many different ways and its articulation continued to be refined, a process which continues today, nevertheless there was a conviction that there is one right faith; and this conviction that there is one right faith, one right reading of the one Scripture, is intimately tied to the confession that there is one Jesus Christ, the only Son of the one Father, who alone has made know (…”exegeted”, Jn 1:18) the Father. The assertion that there is such a thing as right faith came to be expressed, by the end of the second century, in terms of the canon (rule) of faith or truth, where canon does not mean an ultimately arbitrary list of articles of belief which must be adhered to, or a list of authoritative books which must be accepted, but is rather a crystallization of the hypothesis of Scripture itself. The canon is this sense is the presupposition for reading Scripture on its own terms – it is the canon of truth, where Scripture is the body of truth. “

Count your blessings

Unrelated photo: I had to go to the Amish this morning. Jovana poses unenthusiastically with the horsey.

Of the only three accounts found in the gospels of Jesus raising someone from the dead, the raising of the son of the widow of Nain differs from the rest in one small detail: no one ever asked Jesus to perform this miracle. Actually, I suppose this can be found in the other accounts but with the exception that in the incident in Nain Jesus was never approached by anyone at all: neither the widow nor anyone from the crowd. Instead, it was He who happened upon the funeral and felt so much compassion for the poor widow that, out of His great love, He gave her her son back.

In addition to this I would venture to say that the Lord’s very motive is worth noting. Unlike other cases from the gospel stories where the Lord is approached by the paralyzed, the blind, those living with infirmities years on end, it would seem that that the Lord had compassion on the widow for none of these seemingly serious problems. Rather, He felt sorry for her financial situation. Indeed, for a woman to live alone in the agricultural communities of the Middle East in New Testament times was catastrophic. This woman, who had lost her husband and now her only son and left with no one to do the farm work, was one to certainly pity.

I would conclude that God helps us not only with what we would deem to be those great, life threatening problems. Rather, He is there to solve all of our life’s worries. Subsequently, we go to Him with everything we do – from the smallest of life’s decisions to those more serious ones. But it is not  here that I  find the point of this gospel lesson, because, truth be told, in approaching our Heavenly Father in prayer it is more often that we have absolutely nothing to ask Him. For just as He solved the widow’s problem without her asking Him He is compassionate on us as well. Therefore, we have little to ask of Him who has already blessed us with so much.

The only thing we can we do on our own is to say Thank you.