The darkness is here again. For the next two weeks we’ll hear nothing but the pop and fizzle of fireworks, and at our doors gaggles of kids will stand with deceptive smiles saying ‘Trick or treat?’ We’ll dish out sugar to the already sugar-crazed, and hope they leave our stuff alone.
But this time of year need not be creepy. The Church regards each night’s darkness as an invitation to commend ourselves to God. “Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord,” we ask, “and by thy great mercy defend us.” At the start of November, Christians think of those whose perils and dangers are past. On All Hallows’ Eve, we celebrate the well-known Saints who spent their lives in charity and prayer, or who relinquished them for Christ in bloody martyrdom. At All Souls’, we turn our attention to departed family-members and friends, those who have been significant to us, even if they are unknown to the wider world. We call out their names in church, keeping their memory bright and insisting that, even though we see them no longer, in Christ they are ever-present.
For some, this will be nothing more than whistling in the dark, albeit in very fancy dress and with highly-trained whistlers. But the season of All Saints and All Souls does more than simply redeem the bad weather with some pretty stories. Instead, it announces with confidence that the life seen in Christ can be lived by us all; the new life given to Christ by the Father at Easter is a life in which we can all participate, whether we are Saint Andrew himself or Auntie Mabel.
In this way, Hallowe’en is an anticipation of Christ the Light whose coming we celebrate during the darkest days of the year. It is in the deep pitch of December that we insist that at the heart of all life there is light, and that the light cannot be overcome. The saints and souls we celebrate next week are the fruit of all this. In them we hear a snatch of song we will one day sing in a truer key, in all its unimaginable splendour.