White Flowers, Candles and Memories – (The white gardens – Kensington Place)

Every November, Roman Catholic and the Anglican Churches celebrate two very special occasions; All Saints Day and All Soul’s Day. In the Philippines it’s one of the most important holidays, as it’s the day designated to celebrate a feast in remembering and honouring All Saints who were not given a specific day of feast.

The celebration became official with Pope Boniface IV on May 13 in 609 AD. It was changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III in 731-741. It’s the time when people all over the country return to their town or village to lay flowers and offer candles on the graves of deceased relatives. Most of the time, it’s when relatives gather together to remember their loved ones who passed away and reunite with old mates from their childhood. It serves as a mini reunion of family and school mates in the cemetery.

Some are praying for the souls of their loved ones who departed from earth. Our loved ones who went home before us are the ones praying for us to make the right decision while on earth. After our life on earth, we cannot alter the choices we’ve made.

Take a look at the story of the rich man and beggar Lazarus. When Lazarus died, the angels carried him into Abraham’s side and when the rich man died he was buried and tormented in hell. What determines whether we are going to heaven or hell is our faith, not our material possession. By grace of God through faith can secure us a place in heaven. Once we are saved, then good works shall flow out from our hearts. The rich man didn’t want his five brothers to be in a place where he was, he wanted to warn them through Lazarus. Abraham said it’s not possible. Those living on earth have Moses and the prophets, the spiritual leaders of the true Living God, to listen to. If they don’t listen to them, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

This story describes two different states of human being; while on earth and after their time on earth. There is no in between where you can change the destiny of the departed loved ones, not even through prayers. It’s good to solemnly gather with our family and friends in remembrance of our loved ones on All Saints Day, but the living should remember to pray for themselves too.

There is only one way, Jesus. Because God is holy, we are not we cannot approach the Father directly without Jesus mediating for us. Neither the saints, bishops, priests, nor the Pope could mediate us to the Father. There’s no wrong in respecting our spiritual fathers, but don’t give them the burden which Jesus carried for us 2000 years ago. Only then can we be sure that we’ll meet our loved ones once again in a good place.

All Hallows Eve to Halloween

Before every November 1, there’s always October 31. In ancient British Isles, they celebrated October 31 as All Hallows Eve. It was a feast of harvest. When the Celtics became Christian, they merged the festival of harvest with Christian ideology. All Hallows Eve means “holy evening”. The night was spent by people praying, singing hymns, fasting and reading various scriptures in preparation of the following two important days of remembering and honouring all saints and departed loved ones, the All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Scary costumes were worn that night to drive the evil spirits away, and people gathered around churches. That’s the reason Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses on the door of the church on October 31, 1517- he knew that night would gather many people around the church. Even with the separation of Roman Catholic and Protestants, they still united in celebration of All Hallows Eve, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day. During the time of my grandparents and my parents’ people in the Philippines, people cooked special delicacies and sang from house to house on the night of October 31, quite similar to All Hallows Eve. Now, the tradition has diminished to say the least.

Today, there is no Christian group that I know who celebrate All Hallows Eve. There might be special nights when some Christian groups pray, fast, sing hymns, and read the scripture but what a great impact and power would it be if it was done by the body of Christ at one time. During the times of our forefathers, the Church or the body of Christ was powerful and influential to the world, not the other way around. All Hallows Eve was given a secular name, Halloween, by those who wished to avoid religious observance of the day. During All Hallows Eve people wore costumes to drive away the evil spirits. Now people wear costumes of the evil spirits themselves.

This is not a scholarly or theological work. I am just giving information on why people observe the occasion such as Halloween. I am no expert but an ordinary believer of Jesus Christ just like many of the Filipino readers in diaspora. So here I ask, what happened? Why is “All Hallows Eve” gone and Halloween here? After the Reformation, there was a big divide and religious upheaval. The Age of Secularism and Pluralism started during the 16th century. While some of those confused observers didn’t know which side to take between Roman Catholic and Protestants, they formed their own group with totally different doctrine and belief.

There is so much conflict in the world today, but the conflict among those who claim to be followers of Jesus is overwhelming. We ordinary Christian believers wish for a council to sort out these differences using the Word of the Living God as the basis. We are longing for Peter and Paul who met in a council in Jerusalem. They argued but at the end of the day both believed and died for what Jesus taught, not imposing dogma not found in the Living Word of God. They sorted out their differences through the leading of the Holy Spirit. The accountability and responsibility weigh more to those who lead spiritual beliefs of the people. On the other hand, people cannot point nor blame their spiritual leaders when they reach their final destiny. Now that the Bible is readily available in most nations and Holy Spirit is poured out to all men, we have no excuse. Praying, singing hymns, fasting, reading various scriptures, respecting and honouring those who died for their faith, and respecting our deceased loved ones are not bad things. This is looking back where we came from. Surely the Father will be glorified in the Kingdom of God, advancing if the body of Christ is united. There are major differences in the doctrine of Roman Catholics and Protestants. However, they both believe in God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Going back to “All Hallows Eve” is a good starting point. One night for all Christian denominations to pray to the Father and Father alone in the name of Jesus.

All Saints Day in England

Perhaps you are wondering whether November 1 is a national holiday in Great Britain like in the Philippines? No, it’s not. But this year, United Kingdom and the world is commemorating the 20th year since the death of the most photographed woman in the world, Princess Diana of Wales. There are many tributes given to her in television, newspapers, and radio.

I have something to share to you in remembering her. I went to Kensington Palace the day Prince William and Prince Harry made an impromptu visit to speak with followers of their late mother. After viewing the tributes and cards, they left by the gate of the Palace and thanked those who came to the Palace. I visited the memorial garden for Diana, the White Garden, at Kensington Palace. There were sweet scented narcissus and gladiolus through overlaid white ‘forget me nots’. The classic English white roses encompassed the pool, and in the centre of the garden there was a fountain gently splashing tiny drops of water. The tiny drops of water reminded me of Diana’s influence on the world. Her compassion and charity to those in need were the highlight of her royal duty. The glowing and cheerful ornamental grasses and wild meadows braided through Cosmos daisies, few scattered fuchsia pink roses and many more flowers that were known as Diana’s favourite.

The ambience was very much like Diana’s life from, a simple Lady to an iconic world figure. In my opinion, what captivated the heart of the world towards her was that while she was a real Princess, she wore her heart on her sleeve and wasn’t afraid to show the world her weaknesses and imperfection. She was a woman considered a goddess by the masses, and yet the feeling of insecurity and the pain of rejection was genuine. No one comes even close to the way she carried her outfit, whether in tiara or blue jeans. Her short blonde hair and oceanic blue eyes suit her tall frame. The most important of all, she did her best as a mother to the future King and his Prince brother. She taught them to be in touch with ordinary people. She took them for a ride in public bus, underground trains, and defied royal protocols for her children. Grieving the loss of a loved one, especially of a parent or a child, is the most difficult emotion to digest. I can say that the feeling I never fully got over with was when I lost my parents. The assurance that comforts me is that of our reunion in a good place.

This All Saints and All Souls day as we remember the short life of Diana and our loved ones, remember the story of Lazarus and the rich man. We cannot pray for them that went before us, but we can pray for everyone who is on earth right now. As we remember them, they remember us too. Lighting a candle for a loved one means different things to different people. To some it’s a symbol of solemnity, to others a symbol of remembrance. For me it’s a reminder that life is like a candle light, a single blow of wind and it’s gone. So it’s our duty to let that light shine while on earth. We weren’t born alone- we were born to a family, a family of God. Together, whether rich or poor, our lights will shine the brightest when we honour One Father through His begotten Son Jesus, and it’s possible only by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is the true essence of All Saints and All Souls day. The only light that will shine up to eternity is the glory of God in heaven and surely it is good to pursue that while we are on earth.