A Week to Consider Mystery

I’ve never been a huge Halloween fan – I was one of those kids who get scared easily and who didn’t enjoy being scared. But as an adult, I appreciate that the concept of Halloween reminds us of the mysterious intersections of souls once a year. When we watch films about haunted houses we may or may not believe ghosts exist, but we have to consider what is behind the strange events in this world, what could be at work in places we are uncomfortable with. And when we are surrounded by memories of cemeteries and witches and all kinds of goblins, we might wonder why humanity is so drawn to these stories. We long to connect with loved ones who are no longer with us; As far as we know, they exist in a place that is mysterious to us. And what else is there in all this mystery? Why have we always imagined monsters, angels, humans and animals with supernatural powers? Halloween may not provide any real information about such secrets, but it certainly tells us a lot about ourselves.

We feel that a connection exists, even beyond death. Almost everyone has a story about a connection with a loved one who has died. It happens through dreams or sensations or strange coincidences or strong inclinations during prayer. Some of these “connections” can be explained away – it was my grief or simply the power of my own memory or imagination. Others are more difficult to dismiss and seem to come from this realm of mystery.

This is not so mysterious to the Christian because we believe in the communion of saints. We believe that the soul is eternal and that it is ultimately in God’s care. And the community of faith – the church – transcends the boundaries of space and time. That is why we include in our prayers and conversations those who have lived through this mortal life. We believe that they are still present to us, if not in person. We all – the living and the dead – are held in the bonds of grace and the power of the Holy Spirit.

We take evil seriously. As Christians, we believe that there is intelligent evil in the universe and it seeks harm to all of creation. I believe that all of our horror stories hint at our desire that evil be defeated and its power removed. We want to live; Evil wants us to die. We want to grow; evil wants to keep us stuck and miserable. We want to forgive and live in harmony with others; evil wants war and strife and vengeance. In a way, our Halloween costumes and cartoons are forms of mockery of evil. We believe that Jesus Christ has power over all other power and that the last word will be love. In the meantime, we pay attention to the many ways that evil can take root in daily life – gossip, jealousy, greed, despair, and so on.

We suspect that places carry something of the people and activities that existed in them. There is a reason certain places are called sacred. Throughout recorded human history, we have recognized that some places invite the divine presence – and others fight against it. We set aside churches, temples, and various types of outdoor spaces and consecrate them so that we can pray, sing, and meet others there, to make peace and do good works, for rituals that honor people and God. We also recognize that places where great injustices have been committed do not feel so free and easy and hopeful. This is especially true in places like former concentration camps, battlefields, locations of mass murder – even in homes where children have been injured.

We don’t know exactly how places carry spiritual qualities, but we do know that there are ways to purify the spaces in which we live and work. We bless our home; We pray for places that need healing. We fill these spaces with beauty and order and openness. We teach our kids how to create their own beauty right in their bedroom or backyard. We explain why it is important to show symbols of hope and compassion, photos of those we love, and events that matter to us. We try to model discernment by arranging the space and choosing what will be there.

I encourage you to allow Halloween to spark a meditation on the communion of saints, the reality of evil and grace, and the atmosphere you are creating where you live.

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