Monday, November 2, 2009

Three Days of Death

For those of you who follow the liturgy, today is All Souls Day. Yesterday was All Saints Day, and the day before, of course, was Halloween.

I don't make it to church all that often. I attend a little more than the Easter & Christmas type, but not much; maybe 6-8 times a year. But I usually make it on All Saints day. I have find it interesting to contrast the two folk (as opposed to religious) holidays that fall on the last day of October and the first day of November respectively.

Halloween is largely about death and our fear of it. Halloween treats death as something terrifying, evil, and often coming to get us. Images of ghosts, zombies, skeletons, and other undead creatures abound. They are always vile, horrific, and ready to make us like them. Halloween reminds me that we fear death and run from it, but that we are ultimately doomed to be overtaken by it. Death is scary.

We should not downplay this aspect of death. We are frightened by it, we are uncomfortable with it. Halloween allows us to recognize and explore this fear. It is important that our radical unease with death be experienced first.

What comes after Halloween, however, changes the picture. The Mexican celebration of the Day of the Dead is also marked by images of ghosts and skeletons. These images are, however, not so scary. For the Day of the Dead, death is something to be embraced and celebrated, reflected upon. We remember our dear departed and celebrate the fact that, though no longer living, they remain powerfully with us. Death need not be scary, but is a natural part of the celebration of life.

All Saints Day and All Souls Day have the same theme as the Day of the Dead. We celebrate not only the memory, but the continuing presence of the departed in our hearts, minds, and lives. We honor their memory and continue their work. When our time comes, we to will depart this life, but we also will leave a legacy and a presence behind.

It is important that we come to a place where we accept death as natural. We must learn to embrace it and to end our fear of it. But we cannot do this without fully confronting our fear of it, without recognizing this fear, without battling our demons.

It is very important that Day of the Dead and All Saints Day follow Halloween. We cannot make peace with our mortality until we have looked at it and our fear of it head on.

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