Look out for skeletons! Halloween, incomplete without skeletons, has become something of a ‘big deal’ in recent years. According to some reports it is second only to Christmas as a money-spending event. Do you think the becoming a ‘big deal’ has something to do with commercial interests’ promotion? What, really, is behind Halloween?
Halloween is a contraction of the term “All Hallows Eve”. All Hallows Eve is the name given the evening before All Saints Day: a Christian celebration of note that occurs on November 1. On All Saints Day, Christians remember and celebrate the lives of the faithful who have paved the way before us and have entered into the life of the world to come. From this devolves the interest in the dead and skeletons.
If you want to do something really cool at Halloween, how about a visit to one of the catacombs near Rome? In that cold and dark place are the skeletal remains of some half million Christian faithful. It is estimated that 100 to 200 of these were martyrs for their faith in the second century. A creepy place? Maybe not.
If you visit the catacomb Callisti and walk down through the passageways between the skeletons tiered on both sides as you pass. After some distance, you will come to an alcove recessed from the passageway. On the wall there is a faint fresco with a depiction of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and Eucharistic symbols. (The image of the Good Shepherd was used because it was less likely than the cross to be taken as a Christian symbol by the Romans.) This alcove was the site of an altar where the Eucharist was celebrated by the faithful who had been driven from their homes because of persecution.
There, in that place of death, amongst the remains of the faithful, Christians celebrated eternal life. In that place of death, cold and dark, the promise of eternal life triumphed. Real faith. A treat without tricks.
Rev Jim Sinclair
Pastor Jim is the minister for First United Baptist Church