“You can survive being that vulnerable. I think it is at the heart of being human, sorrow and sadness. It’s certainly an essential component of loving. If you don’t want to cry, then don’t love anything.” –David Saetre, campus minister, quoted in The End of Night by Paul Bogard.
For years, Halloween has easily been my least favorite holiday. I don’t say that as some in my tribe do, with spiritual condescension toward those who celebrate it. For me, it’s just a matter of personal preference. I don’t like being scared or startled. I don’t like gore. I think zombies are interesting only as metaphors, not as costumes. Generally, I just don’t participate, lest I become the Grinch who stole Halloween.
But for the first time in my life, I’m gazing at this Halloween with an eye toward the other side of it. Most of us know that the word Halloween means “all hallows eve,” but we associate that only with ghosts. In fact, however, All Hallows Day is a Christian festival that has been celebrated for a millennium and a half to honor all the saints. In my tradition, that term is applied to all who have died in Christ, particularly those who have joined the church triumphant in the previous year. Like many others, I will be standing in honor of a friend this year when that part of the service comes around.
As I was reading Paul Bogard’s book on the need to preserve darkness, I came across the above quote. The pastor he references says that he spends his time signaling toward the divine, but also reminding people not to pass too lightly through the times of doubt and struggle. After all, the rhythm of our world is darkness and light, darkness and light. Both together are necessary for our health.
I won’t be wearing a goofy costume or watching slasher movies this Halloween. But I think I will be contemplating the necessity of darkness, the need to be still, the promise of resurrection. During our All Saints celebration, I will try not to cry in church, but if I do it’s not because of despair. It’s because both love and loss are the very fabric of human experience, part of our souls’ rhythm. Light and darkness, but always hope.