Sunday, September 9, 2012

O, The Love of God!

John 3: 16  is possibly the best known passage of scripture in all the world.  We see posters and banners of this passage held high overhead at sports events of all kinds.  If asked, many people will be able to give the gist of what it says, even if they cannot quote it fully.

This is a good thing.  If only so many people could do the same with even a tenth of the rest of the scriptures.  God has given them to us as His love letters after all.  Who wouldn't want a working knowledge of letters received from the beloved?

Today, this was the Gospel given to us by the Byzantine Church. As I read this Gospel in preparation for Sunday, I began to reflect on the meaning of it, and a few thoughts occurred to me which I thought I would share. 

God loves us!  That should stun us by the mere thought of it.  This is so great in its magnitude that we ought to be left speechless by it!  Why should the One Who is all powerful, and able to create the extraordinary reality of all that is from the tiniest particle to the largest of universes show even the least interest in us?  It isn't as if He actually needs us.  He's the Creator of all that is.  Yet He has chosen to share His life with us, and to love us, when we have infinitely less in common with Him than an ant has with a whale.  To me, that is amazing.

The second thought which occurred to me is that He gives His Son to us.  Why is this important, not only that God has a Son, but also that He gives His Son to us?  His Son is quite literally all that He has.  His Son shares all that the Father is and has, as well as Being All that He is.  In His great love for us,  God Gives us Himself, All that He Is and All that He Has without any reservation at all. 

He has given us Himself so that if we believe in Him we will not perish, but have everlasting life. We are perishing.  Each day that we live is a day closer to the grave.  And so many times in our lives it is not a slow crawl to the grave, but a mad rush.  We have so much with which we pack our days that we are incapable of enjoying the many moments that God has given to us to remind us of how much He loves us.  God has given us His Son so that we might be freed of the mad rush toward death, and live His new life.

How do we live this new life?  We live it by faith in Jesus Christ.  So many times, people say that "all we have to do is believe in Him, and we will be saved!"  That is true, but it doesn't quite go far enough.  There are implications to Faith in Jesus Christ.  If we believe, we are saved, but we must live our convictions if they mean anything at all to us.  To believe in Jesus Christ means to rush into His open arms each day, and to concern ourselves at every moment with loving Him in every situation in which we find ourselves. 
Do we look to a wise elder for advice regarding living this out?  When we do, do we carefully follow his or her advice, or do we carelessly ignore it, or even say we will do it later?  The beauty of genuine orthodox Christianity is that we do not have to search blindly in the dark on our own every day for a Savior.  God has given us a Savior in His Son, and made it very simple to receive this salvation.  Why would He do this?  I can only believe that it is because He really wants us to receive this salvation, and that He really does Love us.   

God loves us so much that He has freely chosen, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior, to enter the Hell that we had created for ourselves in order to give us another possibility; the ability to choose to receive the gift of Heaven from Him.  Knowing that we would put Him to a Hellish death, He made that the way in which His Life would be poured into us, through His voluntary self emptying.  The choice is before us to receive this great gift, or to reject it.  God has opened this door for us.  Let us attend!  Let us walk through the door before it closes, and receive His life, which is Life Eternal.  Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory Forever!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

From the Other Side of the Collar

There are many things I never could have foreseen in my life's journey which, God willing, is far from over. For one thing, I never could have foreseen that I would see the end of the Space Shuttle program, or that things which have been consistently taught by the Christian Faith for 2000 years concerning God, and Right and Wrong would be called into question in my lifetime, even by those proclaiming themselves to be believing Christians.

Yet another thing I never could have foreseen, even a mere 20 years ago, as a devout Roman Catholic, and staunch believer in the SUPERIORITY of the Latin Rite, that 20 years later, I would be kneeling in the Altar of a Ukrainian Greek Catholic Parish receiving the Mystery of Holy Orders being ordained as a Deacon.

On multiple levels here, I have crossed boundaries more than once in the process of doing this. First from my attitudes concerning the Roman Rite's Superiority in all things, then the change of Canonical Ritual Churches, and at this point, the move from Laity to Clergy. In a sense, I have been on this journey for a long time, but in another sense, the Journey is far from complete, for I am still alive as of this writing, and so much can yet happen.

Things look different from over here. So much is the same, yet the way it looks is different. I find it difficult to articulate, but it seems that I believed the change that occurred wouldn't be all that different. Yet, things are different. I can't deny it. It isn't exactly in my spirituality, for the prayers I have been praying are the same as I have been doing for a number of years. It isn't the change from the Lay state to the clerical state, for I am still one of the Laos, the people of God, yet I am now also Kleros, one of the Clergy. There is, for me, an unspeakable aspect to this mystery. True, I participate at Divine Liturgy in a new capacity, but that can't be it, can it?

Perhaps it can be that after all. The ministry of Deacon is not, in its origin, a primarily Liturgical role in the sense of being a leader of Worship, yet Liturgy is what motivates it, as it should with the roles of the Laity as well. The role of Deacon is first and foremost a ministry of service to the People of God. One from among them is ordained to wait upon them. In the Acts of the Apostles, this role comes about so that the Apostles may focus upon the preaching of the Word. The Deacons are ordained primarily to "wait on tables." They are to be men of good character, yet their function is something that pretty much anyone can do. They make sure that those in need of food receive it. As such, the Deacon's role is that of minister of Charity. He serves the needs of those in need.

Yet the Role of the Deacon is also Liturgical. He is one of the Clergy, and in this sense has the duty to participate as Clergy in the Liturgy. His service within the Liturgy is noticeable, especially in the Eastern Churches, for there, he is out in front of all the people. All eyes are on him, which I will admit is unnerving at times. I realize from my own short experience as a Deacon that the deacon can interfere with people's experience of worship, or enhance it, depending on how prepared he is.

There is a sense in which the role of Deacon is also that of Father. This is highlighted within the Eastern Churches who address not only priests, but also deacons as Father. That takes a little getting used to, particularly since I remember in my youth having been addressed as Father by those who were sure I would pursue a vocation to the priesthood. I found it annoying then, because I knew that I was not a priest. Now, it gives me a sense of nervousness, for I know that on my own, I cannot be a good father to the people who have been entrusted to me. It is only through the grace of God that this can be accomplished.

One of the most amazing experiences that I have had at this point however involved the taking of communion to one of our parishioners. To the average Roman Catholic, this may not mean a whole lot, for any Roman Catholic may distribute communion if they have been commissioned to do so, but only a Bishop, priest, and deacon can do so in the Eastern Churches. I will not say much here except to say that this individual was in bad shape. The short service I led for the reception of communion was largely done by my family and me, for the parishioner could not respond in most cases. Yet, even as I led the service in Ukrainian and English, according to my ability, this individual began attempting to participate to the degree that this person was able to do so. It was awe inspiring and I knew that on the mystical level, we had entered heaven, and the role of deacon into which I have been placed through no worthiness of my own but by the Grace of God, had helped to bring us there. There was no cross in the room, and no icon but the living icon of God, the human person, but Jesus was present, truly present, in the mysteries of His Body and Blood, given under the form of bread and wine (communion is always given under both forms in the Eastern Churches). I found myself not wanting to leave, but to stay as long as I could. When we finally left, I knew that there was no other place I would have wanted to be. I also had a much greater appreciation for my family, who went with me not only willingly, but, it seemed, joyfully, and were so willing to help out with the service.

My writing of this experience is only three weeks out from my ordination, so I know that I have barely scratched the surface, but by the Grace of God, this journey will involve ever deeper discovery of what it means to be a Deacon. If you read this, please also remember to say a prayer for me, and for all the Clergy who serve our Churches throughout the world, for we depend on the prayers of the people we serve. It provides a strong defense against the Evil One who seeks to destroy all of us. Glory to Jesus Christ!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pentecost: Celebrating the New Creation

Entering the Temple on the morning of the 50th day after our Lord's Resurrection, decorations of green fill the Holy House. Holy Table, Priest, Servers, Tetrapod, and so on wear robes of green, and wherever they can be put, plants, and leaves of green are spread about throughout the place. It is a scene familiar to many in Eastern Christian Tradition, though not all have this tradition. Why all the Greenery? Because we celebrate the coming of the Lord and Giver of Life who proceeds from the Father: Namely, the Holy Spirit! He is celebrated with the decoration of the Church in Green because Green is the color of the Earth's renewal each spring!

As we see all of this, we pause and reflect on what the results of the Holy Spirit's coming upon the Church has been, remembering also how we have fallen short, and asking to be saved by our Lord who loves mankind. Repentance is a very big part of the life of an Eastern Christian, for we are very aware of the Awesome Holiness of the God who has loved us so much that He has given His only begotten Son for us, so that we could be saved from ourselves. We reflect upon the life which the Holy Spirit brings to each of us if we allow Him to prepare His way in us.

By contrast, Roman Catholics, and many protestants will use the color Red. The irony here is that Roman Catholics also use red in celebration of the memory of the martyrs, to symbolize the blood they have spilled in honor of Jesus Christ. I'll come back to the image of blood momentarily. When the color red is used in celebrating Pentecost, it seems that it may be pointing to the notion of Fire. The Holy Spirit is, after all, said to set one's life on fire for God. Furthermore, we also see the image of Fire in the letter to the Hebrews (12:29) "Our God is a consuming Fire." Fire is spoken of as cleansing (1 Cor 3:11-15) or like a refiner's fire (Malachi 3:2-3), and the Holy Spirit certainly cleanses and refines any in whom He dwells. Furthermore, Acts chapter 2 says that tongues as of fire descended upon the disciples who were gathered in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came upon them. So Fire is not alien to the Biblical imagery for the Holy Spirit.

The image of blood, however, is also very telling. The Roman Catholic tradition in my experience doesn't typically draw this connection, but the connection is present to be made, nonetheless. The ancients believed that the life was in the blood. This imagery certainly exists within the Jewish covenant. The sacrificial rituals of the Temple were ratified in the blood of Sheep and Oxen. A Jewish male began his life as a Jew by having his blood drawn as well in the ritual of circumcision. Blood was therefore sacred.

When Jesus poured out His blood on the cross, He poured out his very life for the life of the world. We could certainly see a validity to the view that the life is in the blood, for if you remove the blood from a living creature, it dies. Science has revealed long ago that blood carries oxygen to the body, as well as food, and this comes to the blood of man through the breath of life given by God. The ancients were right; The life is in the blood which carries the sacred breath of life through the body of the creature. Hence, Red also may be a symbol of life for the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The whole point of using color as a symbol for the feast of Pentecost is to give our minds an image to latch on to which says: The Holy Spirit has come into my being to make me nothing less than a New Creation in Christ Jesus. This Re-creation brings to us a sharing in the very life of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Part of this re-creation is to first be convicted that we are sinners, and utterly unworthy of God's gracious, loving generosity to us. All we deserve is to receive that which we have chosen, which is to be left to our own devices, and to suffer eternally in the Hell of our own choosing. God, on the other hand, has another plan for us: Salvation. We can become new by the power of the Holy Spirit. We can enter into God's life. We can receive the power to become children of God (John 1:12), which is, in fact, what we celebrate whenever we honor a saint; the completed work of the Holy Spirit.

Appropriately enough, the Eastern Churches celebrate the feast of All Saints on the Sunday after Pentecost. This effectively makes the connection between Pentecost and the becoming a saint obvious. One cannot become a Saint without the Holy Spirit's indwelling. May the all Holy, Good, and Life Creating Spirit empower us to constantly seek His aid, now and forever, and to the ages of ages! Amen.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Forgiveness Sunday: Order, Chaos, and Misogyny

Two images are given to us today at the Saturday evening Vespers which are, I believe, intended to convey something very powerful concerning two sides of the same coin. It is completely appropriate on this last day before the Great Fast, or Great Lent, begins.

Some may find it puzzling that I say it is the last day before the Great Fast and it is a Sunday. Doesn't Lent begin on Ash Wednesday? Well, yes and no. In the Western Christian Tradition, Lent does begin on Ash Wednesday, but in the Eastern Christian Tradition, there is no Ash Wednesday, and consequently, no Mardi Gras either. In the Eastern tradition, Lent is not prepared for by indulging one last time in our chosen penance before the season begins. In the proper tradition of the Eastern Churches, one prepares for Lent by beginning to deprive oneself from the things from which one will fast, in order to begin practicing a higher degree of self discipline. In a sense, this last day before Great Lent is a stark reminder that we may very well have failed in our goal of preparation for the Fast. It is known of as Cheesefare Sunday, from the fact that it is the last day on which dairy may be consumed in the tradition of the full fast, which is not often observed in the modern era, but it also goes by another name: Forgiveness Sunday.

On Forgiveness Sunday, the purpose of our self discipline is driven home; that purpose is to grow in the love of God for one another. Sadly, as we have already begun to prepare for the Great Fast by two weeks of fasting, we have become aware that we have sinned against our friends, neighbors, and families. During the celebration of this particular day, at Vespers we are to ask one another's forgiveness for whatever offenses we may have committed. Part of the service involves the vocalization of forgiveness to one another, which we hope also comes from the heart.

As to the two images with which we are presented, they are chaos, and order. The image of chaos involves Adam, the father of humanity according to the flesh, sitting outside of Paradise lamenting over how much he has lost because Eve deceived him, even going as far as to say that the gates of Paradise are closed because of Eve. I will say more on this momentarily. The image of order shows the Most Holy Theotokos being the Throne of the Great King (Jesus) and the nuptial chamber of the Glory of God. In the course of this image, we see Mary being glorified as Mother of Jesus, the Savior of our souls, and Jesus answering the lament of Adam by stating that He desires His creation to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

Both of these images are marital. The first of these images involves disharmony, disorder, misogyny, self centeredness, self pity, and a complete lack of personal responsibility. Adam is sorry for his sin, but it is only because of what he lost through someone else's actions. He just cannot own up to what he has done. This is an image of a very bad marriage, a marriage on the rocks. The wife is blamed for all the husband's problems, and really can't say anything to change his mind. She has no other recourse before human beings because the only other living human on Earth is the man who blames her for all of his suffering. This image we are given both in the Bible and in the prayers for today is not far removed from us. We see this sort of thing happening in our modern world as well, as husbands and wives blame each other for things not working out just as they planned. It should be noted that anytime a husband finds himself being critical of his wife, this symptom of broken humanity is being lived out in him, and the help of an experienced spiritual father should be sought. The same goes for a woman who is critical of her husband. There may be legitimate reasons for spouses to want to be critical, but one should always focus on changing oneself, and demonstrate mercy to the spouse. The Eastern Church presents this image to us first as a reminder that human beings have freely chosen the pickle in which they find themselves. If the Eastern Church were to leave us with this image only she could justly be accused of misogyny, and even a certain nihilism herself. But she doesn't stop there.

The second of these marital images with which we are presented is an image of order, harmony, and Glory. Jesus Himself promises salvation to His creatures, and then brings it about by glorifying a woman, one of a sex unjustly blamed for human suffering, and makes her the primary participant in His plan of redemption by becoming incarnate through her. He, the King of the Universe, takes her to be His throne. As God, He makes her the Platytera, more spacious than the heavens, for Him whom all heaven cannot contain dwelt within her ever virgin womb. As man, He becomes her son, which makes her His mother. Restoration to wholeness and harmony are given as a promise to all who receive this gift of God Incarnate.

I feel the need to be very explicit here. The Church presents us with both images, but it is not the Church which is misogynistic, it is Adam, and through him fallen, wounded, sinful humanity. The Eastern Church does not present this image to encourage enmity toward women, but rather to demonstrate that this enmity toward women is one of the symptoms of humanity tearing itself apart in disobedience to God. This is not to deny either, that there have been influential Christians with serious issues with women, but the Church is greater than the sum of its parts, for it is the household of God as well as being a hospital for sinners.

The truth of what humanity was to be in harmony with God is offered to us by Him and is contrasted with the lie that humanity accepted by choosing to live in disharmony with God, thus alienating themselves from one another. These two images are presented side by side to remind humanity of what we willingly chose, and to give us the chance to choose in favor of the best option ever offered to human beings.

As we are reminded of these images, we are also reminded to begin our work of bringing order to our houses by putting our relationships right. This does not mean we have to like everyone who is a member of our parish Church. It does mean that we have to strive to love them. It is presumed both that they have sinned against us, and that we have sinned against them. It is further presumed that obeying the command of God to love our neighbors will take work, and repentance on our own part as well. But if we wish to grow in God's love for one another, as He Himself would have us do, we must choose God's gift of Harmony with Him and with our neighbor, turn away from disharmony, which is sin, and although on Forgiveness Sunday, we are reminded very pointedly that this begins by repentance and forgiveness, we should not forget that every time we pray the Lord's Prayer, we pray "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

May our observance of the discipline of Great Lent be a time of great Grace, and bring us ever closer to the Transfiguration of our world and of ourselves in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Love Jesus, Love His Mother!

For 26 years, I have been very interested in the differences between Churches and Ecclesial communities. Perhaps one of the most prominent differences is the veneration of Saints and especially of the Mother of Jesus. Varying traditions have varying attitudes on this, but the most prominent differences are essentially those who "only honor Jesus" versus those who "honor Jesus who is glorified in His Saints."

On the one side are found groups like the Baptists, Wesleyans, and Methodists, Pentecostals, and numerous "Bible Churches" and Fundamentalist groups. On the other side, I once erroneously thought, was found the Roman Catholic Church. Since then, I have also learned that there are Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherans, and Eastern Orthodox. With the Anglican/Episcopalian communities, it is more obvious, although Lutherans do honor Martin Luther, as well as having Churches named for St. Luke, St. Matthew, St. Peter, and St. Paul, among others. The Lutherans will honor saints at least by naming their parishes after them. Eastern Orthodox devotion to saints, in many ways outstrips even Roman Catholic Devotion to them, for they will not only pray before their Icons, but it is not unusual to see an Orthodox Christian kiss the Icon as well, whereas Roman Catholics will kiss the statue of a saint, but not as frequently. This, however, is only an outward expression. It is true that Roman Catholics also have novenas to particular saints, and patron saints, but Orthodox also have patron saints, and although they do not have novenas, from time to time an Akathist will appear to a particular saint and Orthodox Christians will not shy away from asking for a saint's help repeatedly.

For some of the particular thoughts on why Saints are honored in the Eastern Christian Tradition, see my earlier post entitled: "God is Magnified in His Saints."

Prior to just yesterday, I also had been doing many of the things that my co-religionists in my Eastern Catholic parish did; making the sign of the cross, bowing, venerating the icons of saints and feasts, and so on. But yesterday something happened that I think is worth sharing. I attended a prayer service at the local Greek Orthodox Metropolis (The Small Paraklesis). The text of this service is available at .
I have attended this service many times before, and have a great love for it, but this particular day was different. The Chancellor of the Metropolis was the celebrant of the service. At the end of it, after we were anointed with oil, he offered his reflections on something that had happened that very day. A group of ministers from a protestant denomination showed up at the Metropolis for an unscheduled tour of the Cathedral.
The Chancellor graciously obliged them, took them into the Cathedral, magnificently frescoed with Icons on every side, and proceeded to explain the Orthodox traditions regarding worship, faith, and icons. He then pointed out how every Icon in the Orthodox Church had the name of the saints featured in that Icon, including the Festal Icons (which commemorate particular events, as opposed to just particular people): every Icon except one. Nowhere in any Icon of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary, is her name ever written. What is written is the abbreviation ΜΡ ΘΥ which stands for the title Meter Theou, or Mother of God. The Icon of the Ever Virgin Mary is not an Icon of Mary, but an Icon of the Incarnation of God as man! It is an Incarnational Icon, which highlights the reality that Christianity is about God embracing Humanity in the deepest way possible; by becoming a man Himself. The ministers were blown away by this aspect of Orthodox Catholic Christian* Theology, and asked many more questions, but ended in a statement of how blessed the Orthodox Church was to have this veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos in their tradition.
Truly we are blessed to have this beautiful reality in our holy Tradition, that Jesus' Mother is not merely the mother of just a man, but of a man Who is Complete in Divinity. This man is no less God than the Father in Heaven! To embrace this part of the Christian Message is transformational to a Genuine Christian understanding of humanity. To be touched by God is, in the fullest meaning of this reality, to be transformed utterly. Mary was touched by God, not only in body, but in heart and soul. She has been transformed by His presence dwelling within her day and night 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for 9 months without ceasing. She believed in Him, and knew more deeply than anyone else who He was, for she had received the Divine Messenger's visitation proclaiming that she would conceive by the power of God. She loved Him before any other human being loved Him. She even went to the cross with Him, although her suffering was a maternal suffering in her heart, rather than an actual physical crucifixion, which she may have preferred to the maternal suffering.
It should be noted that Jesus, for his part, as God and as Man, also loved her first among all people on earth, and more closely than any other human being on earth. There are parts of the Bible which show Him seeming to not respect her as deeply as He should, but these have a particular meaning which shall be explored at another time. He truly loved her with all His heart, and we know that she was on His heart when He died in a special way. He took care of her as He was redeeming the world, and She will always have a special place in His Heart everywhere that He is. It therefore makes sense that if we love Jesus, we ought to love all who He loves. This means that we ought to love His mother too!

*Orthodox Catholic Christian- This particular term may seem to be odd to us. It should be noted that the Orthodox Church considers itself to be the same One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself. So the term Orthodox Catholic means essentially that they consider themselves to be the Right Believing and Right Worshipping Catholic Church. This term may be applied elsewhere by others to mean something different. Most of the time, when I use Orthodox Catholic, I use it to refer to my status as belonging to a Church which is in full sacramental communion with Rome (the Roman Catholic Church), but having Orthodox Belief and Theology, in such a way that is proper for a member of an Eastern Catholic Church. I will expand on this in a future blog.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Merry Christmas! Christ is Born! Glorify Him!

Kala Chrystouyenna! Christ is Born! Glorify Him! The celebration of the Birth of Christ is known by most of us to be attached to December 25. Why, then, am I wishing everyone a Blessed Christmas on January 7th? Good question, to which there is a very simple answer. Today, January 7th, 2011 is December 25th, 2010. This discrepency exists because of a difference in calendars.
The calendar followed by the majority of the Western world is known as the Gregorian Calendar, which replaced the Julian Calendar as the "official" calendar used by all people of the West. The Julian Calendar ultimately had its dates fixed at 13 days later than the Gregorian Calendar. It is the Julian Calendar which many in the Eastern Christian world still use. Therefore, today is December 25th.

For me, as a member of an Eastern Christian Diocese in which some follow the Gregorian Calendar, and some follow the Julian Calendar, it is a unique opportunity to reflect on the Incarnation of God as a human baby about 2000 years ago after the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, and the rampant materialism associated with it in Western society has already concluded. My own parish has a handful of people from the Ukraine who still celebrate Christmas according to this tradition.

So, now that the secular holiday is past, and today, Christmas is celebrated by some in my own Church, what lesson might one glean from this celebration? For me, it is that, quite separately from all the holiday glitz, the stories of Santa Claus, and flying reindeer, as well as Frosty the Snowman, all of which I do enjoy, it is a day that I am remineded that it is worth taking a second look at the reason we celebrate Christmas: Jesus Christ, the Newborn, and Reigning, Resurrected King and Lover of Mankind.

The all powerful, all knowing, and all loving God, knowing that we, human beings, were destined by our own sightless probing beyond the depths of our own woundedness, as a dog biting at a scab on its leg, to die of an infection which would leave us suffering for all eternity, came to Earth to embrace the depth of our own desperateness, and give us a transfusion of His very life to lead us to a life of Eternal Happiness. This is worth more than a second look, but today's Julian Calendar celebration of Christmas is a reminder that a serious consideration of what God has done for us begins, at the very least, with a second look.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Life Worthy of the Call

All Saints Day, is a feast which is often commonly overshadowed by its vigil date, which has become known as Halloween. The irony of its inclusion here is that All Saints Day is not celebrated on November 1st in the Eastern Calendar, but on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Still, as the Western Church does celebrate this feast on the first of November, it is appropriate to deal with this subject on this date.

I will first deal with the subject of the name of Halloween. Notwithstanding the Pagan Celtic celebration of Samhain, which All Saints in the West was meant to replace, the name Halloween is a contraction of All Hallows Evening or Even. The term Hallows refers to the Holy Ones, which is what the term Saints translates from Latin (Sanctus), which is furthermore a translation of the Greek term (Hagios). The term All Hallows Even (Hallow E'en) then, actually means All Saints Eve, or the Vigil of All Saints. This term is, however, nonexistent in the Eastern Christian Churches. In part, the reason for this is that Vigils in the East are celebrated as the feast itself. Christmas, Easter, All Saints, etc., all begin with vespers of the evening before the date. Hence, the feast of All Saints, in the Byzantine East begins on the vespers of the Saturday evening immediately prior to the Sunday of All Saints.

One of the reasons that All Saints is celebrated the Sunday after Pentecost is because the very reason for that one becomes a saint is the power of the Holy Spirit working in the person. No one ever becomes a saint on their own power. They become a saint on the basis of the power of the Holy Spirit. This is how the saints live a life worthy of the call which they received from God. The Holy Spirit empowers and transforms them in the midst of their cooperation. They are transformed by the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit's action in the life of the believer. The previous article in the blog covers why we honor the Saints. It is in honoring the Saints that we honor the completed work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In honoring ALL Saints, we make certain that we honor the work of God completely.

It is therefore important that we honor all of the saints. As for the celebration of Halloween, it can be a Holy thing if it is celebrated in the context of the saints. It certainly was never meant to be satanic. One who celebrates the satanic elements found in the modern celebration of Halloween is really not celebrating All Hallows Even. They really are commemorating the pagan celebration. How are you planning to celebrate this feast? Will it be a celebration of lives lived worthy of the call of God?