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Other Christians embrace Lent: "We are reclaiming a sense of history"
Deacon's Bench ^ | February 24, 2009 | Deacon Greg Kandra

Posted on 02/25/2009 11:27:24 AM PST by NYer

As we get ready for another Ash Wednesday, and another 40-day sojourn into the desert, the Arkansas Catholic has this intriguing item reminding us that Lent is not just a Catholic thing anymore:

Beginning Ash Wednesday, Catholics enter the 40-day penitential season of Lent, but they are not the only Christians to do so. In fact, a growing number of Christian denominations are incorporating Lenten observances into their Christian experience.

"In some denominations we are reclaiming a sense of history," Dr. Jane Harris, professor of American religion at Hendrix College in Conway, said. "We can still be Protestant yet claim liturgical practices."

Harris gave two reasons to explain why more churches, including some American Baptist churches, although none in Arkansas, now follow a liturgical calendar and observe Lent.

First, she said, many churches want to recognize the rich history of the liturgical calendar.

"Observing church seasons add elements of depth and life to the congregation to spiritually enrich us," she said.

Secondly, society has diminished the spiritual elements of holidays.

"Advent and Lent slow us down and take us away from the commercialism and allow us to prepare for the high holy days of Christmas and Easter," she said.

In fact, Lent is all about preparation. While the word "Lent" means "spring," the season of Lent for many Christians is marked by a concentrated focus on prayer and a sacrifice either by giving something up or taking something on, Harris said.

"During Lent, we know that for 40 days everything is going to be different," Father Nicholas Verdaris, pastor of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Little Rock said. "It is about altering our way of life to allow more time for prayer."

Father Verdaris said there are special services only done during Lent and include prayer along with communion and act to fortify the spirits of the faithful.

Followers of the Orthodox Church do not eat meat and sometimes extend that prohibition to dairy for the entire 40 days of Lent, Father Verdaris said.

He also said no weddings are performed during Lent and except for funerals, no other sacraments are celebrated.

In addition, he said the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church use the same formula in determining Easter, but they apply it differently. The Catholic Church follows the Gregorian calendar and the Orthodox Church uses the Julian calendar. Additionally, for Orthodox Christians, Lent begins on Clean Monday, not Ash Wednesday and Easter begins at midnight on Easter Sunday. Father Verdaris said there have been many disappointed people who come to the Orthodox Church on Easter Sunday only to find a brief prayer service which includes brief hymns and no communion.

"We begin at 11 p.m. on Holy Saturday with candles and fill the church with light and praises of the resurrection and are up pretty late, similar to midnight Mass," he said.
Check the link for more. (And, by golly, that picture above looks like a Methodist minister wearing a deacon's stole, doesn't it? )

Meantime, if you're looking for an early Ash Wednesday fix, here's a flashback: my homily for the day from last year.

TOPICS: Current Events; Evangelical Christian; History; Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: ashes; ashwednesday; baptist; catholics; lent

1 posted on 02/25/2009 11:27:24 AM PST by NYer
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To: Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; Romulus; ...

Lenten ping!

2 posted on 02/25/2009 11:28:26 AM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: NYer

Some of us evangelical Christians are not celebrating Lent, believing that it is not biblical. In fact, there is evidence that “Lent” is derived from the Mystery Religions of Babylon.

3 posted on 02/25/2009 11:52:07 AM PST by LiteKeeper (Beware of socialism in America; the Islamization of Eurabia)
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To: NYer

I am an Evangelical Christian. I choose to celebrate Lent. I sacrifice something to meditate on the Sacrifice Christ made for me.

A dear friend of mine *She is also an Evangelical Christian)and I choose for the other what we are giving up for Lent. We do this to hold each other accountable. This year I am giving up video games and she is giving up fiction. We have agreed that the time we would normally spend on these activities will be spent in prayer and Bible reading.

4 posted on 02/25/2009 11:59:49 AM PST by reaganaut (ex-mormon, now Christian. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: LiteKeeper

How unfortunate. Lent is a season of spiritual growth as we accompany our Lord’s into the desert and confront our own temptations with restraint.

5 posted on 02/25/2009 12:01:33 PM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: LiteKeeper
Some of us evangelical Christians are not celebrating Lent, believing that it is not biblical. In fact, there is evidence that “Lent” is derived from the Mystery Religions of Babylon.

Yeah, the followers of Christ were wandering around in darkness for 1,700 years until your sect came along to set everything right.

Got it.
6 posted on 02/25/2009 12:02:35 PM PST by Antoninus (License is the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is the right to do as you ought.)
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To: NYer
How unfortunate. Lent is a season of spiritual growth as we accompany our Lord’s into the desert and confront our own temptations with restraint.

Ah, your response was much more tempered and reasonable than mine (as usual).
7 posted on 02/25/2009 12:04:13 PM PST by Antoninus (License is the ability to do whatever you want. Freedom is the right to do as you ought.)
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To: reaganaut
This year I am giving up video games and she is giving up fiction. We have agreed that the time we would normally spend on these activities will be spent in prayer and Bible reading.

Excellent! Several years ago, I gave up watching the major news channels. I was a news junkie and it was tough going for a few days. After 40 days, I realized just how much more at peace I felt and never went back to watching them again.

Like you, I devote that time to prayer and scripture reading and also select a book to read. This year I am reading:

Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux

It was this review that persuaded me.

I was recommended "Story of a Soul" as the favorite book of a woman I much admired, who worked at a Carmelite monastery. Initially I wondered about the recommendation when I began the book. Therese of Lisieux lived a sheltered life. Her parents were financially secure and devoutly religious (they had to be encouraged by a priest to marry rather than to join a religious order, and later to consummate their marriage). Therese knew she wanted to be a nun from an extremely early age.

My first impression was to wonder why was this book recommended to me, when she has nothing in common with my life, at a time when I didn't known how I would pay the bills and was not sure what God wanted form me in terms of a vocation. True, her health was poor and she suffered the loss of her mother early in her life, so her life was not without sorrow. But she also seemed to have security, love, and an incredible sense of direction, which made me question what I could learn from her life, when these qualities were so missing in my own. Furthermore, I questioned whether some one who lived so holy a life, could be a realistic role model for me; as I have made some pretty unholy decisions in my past.

The book quickly grew on me and eradicated my concerns about it being an inaccessible guide for spirituality. The beauty of the writing is her approach to spirituality, which is accessible to any one in any walk of life. She describes souls as similar to different types of flowers. Some are roses, others lilies, and some like orchids, for example. And all can be equally pleasing to God in their own way, when seeking his role for them. People have different talents and different struggles, but these characteristics do not mean that any type is more valued than the other.

She writes that if the Christian Church is one body, than she wants to be the heart that loves, which I thought was a beautiful sentiment and a much needed philosophy in the world today. When I look on mistakes I've made in my own life, I realized that it is easiest to succumb to temptation when one feels alone and unloved, and I believe that people would make less such mistakes if they had the support of God's love through others. She writes frequently of the many ways that God is love. She believed that heaven for her would be to be able to help people on earth after she died. Many remarkable stories have been published in books about people who claim to have been helped when having asked Therese to pray for their needs. She is one of the most common saints that people claim to have seen an apparition of during their times of trouble.

She writes that any sacrifice in daily life can be offered to God, for the conversion of souls, or help of others, whether it is the suffering of an illness or loss, or the performance of a mundane daily chore. This is a practice also advocated by saints like Gertrude of Helfta, Catherine of Siena, Teresa of Avila, and Francis of Assisi, but it is a way of holy living that any one can practice, in any station of life, at any level of health. Therese also writes much about the prayer, and how her preferred method of praying rather than to memorize long formal prayers, is to speak directly to God as a child, or her struggles and requests.

The book is easy to read and intimate. One feels as if one is experiencing a conversation from Therese, while reading it. Excerpts beg to be read over and over again, and each reading makes me appreciate them more, and want to love others more. The only book that has made me fuller of love for God and others (outside of the Bible) is Catherine of Siena's "The Dialogues." Therese of Lisieux well earned her title as Doctor of the Church.

Thank you for sharing your Lenten plan. May our Lord bless and guide you both through the desert.

8 posted on 02/25/2009 12:19:13 PM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: LiteKeeper

There’s evidence here everyday that you and a lot of your colleagues are very poor students of both Scripture and history.

9 posted on 02/25/2009 12:24:31 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: Antoninus

Nothing wrong with your response.

10 posted on 02/25/2009 12:25:40 PM PST by A.A. Cunningham
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To: LiteKeeper
In fact, there is evidence that “Lent” is derived from the Mystery Religions of Babylon.

There are certainly no examples of anyone fasting for a 40 day period in the Bible, after all.

11 posted on 02/25/2009 12:40:40 PM PST by Campion
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To: NYer

I love St. Therese of Lisieux.

I am a born again Christian, as well as a Medieval Historian. My research area is Holy Women of the Later Middle Ages and their responses to death and disease. So I spend a lot of time reading Hagiographies, not just those of “my saints” but of others as well. I am very interested in the development of Hagiography as a genre. I think i have this book, i may have to dig it out (my library is 10k books and growing, lol).

12 posted on 02/25/2009 12:44:52 PM PST by reaganaut (ex-mormon, now Christian. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: Campion
I always think of this when I hear about these "Mystery Religions of Babylon"
13 posted on 02/25/2009 1:01:20 PM PST by Carpe Cerevisi
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To: NYer
The word Lent in English is originally a word for spring--the Dutch word lente means "spring." It's related to words like long and lengthen--it's the time of year when the days are getting longer. (This doesn't work in the Southern hemisphere but the Anglo-Saxons weren't worried about that.)

The Latin term is Quadragesima (40th), which becomes Quaresima in Italian, Cuaresma in Spanish, and careme in French.

14 posted on 02/25/2009 1:55:43 PM PST by Verginius Rufus
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To: LiteKeeper


While I understand from your evangelical perspective, you do not celebrate Lent, its practice is actually part of Apostolic Tradition. Again, while you may not embrace it, I hope after my post you will at least understand the Catholic, as well as Orthodox perspective on Lent [and also some of the Liturgical Reformed Protestant Traditions who have retained or rediscovered the practice]. Also, I would like to think my post below was done so in a non-polemical fashion.

Lent does mean “spring” coming from Old English, it is derived from the Latin Word “quadragesima” or forty days. Catholic Churches use a Liturgical calendar whereby the entire cycle of the year points to Christ. Hence, the Church’s new year begins in Advent, which is a season of preparation for both the birth of Christ (i.e. the Incarnation) and also a preparation for his second coming. Christmas follows advent and is a season of 12 days where the Church focuses on the birth of Christ and important feasts of the early life of Christ (Holy Family, Epiphany) and also added here is the Baptism of the Lord, which is the 3rd Sunday following Christmas day.

There is a period of “Ordinary Time” between Christmas and Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to the celebration of the paschal mystery (i.e. Easter Triduum, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Pasch/Easter Sunday). So a Non-Catholic may ask questions such as What is Lent?, what is the purpose of Lent? and what is its historical origins. Again, the Catholic Church celebrates the entire “Life of Christ” in its Liturgy (Public Official worship of the Catholic Church). Lent is a 40-day Liturgical season of fasting, almsgiving and special prayer, which the Church sees in scripture in numerous places (e.g. Tobit 12:8, Mt 6:1-18). The purpose of Lent is to embrace and celebrate the public mysteries of Jesus’ Life (i.e. his Baptism, which was mentioned earlier) and now his temptations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 540) states:

Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning (c.f. Hebrews 4:15).” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

The reason for 40 days in Lent is based on the Catholic Church’s principle of Typology, which is the key principle of Catholic Biblical Interpretation. Typology reads the Bible as a unified whole with Christ as the Center, thus Catholic discern in the Old Testament persons, events, signs, etc as prefigurements of Christ and events in the New Testament. From this perspective, King David prefigures Christ the eternal King of the new covenant, etc. In a similar fashion, in the OT we see 40 days as a biblical number relating to discipline, devotion, and preparation. For example, Moses stayed on the Mountain of God for forty days (c.f. Ex 24:18; 34:28); the scouts reconnoitered the land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25); Elijah traveled 40 days before he reached the cave where he has a an encounter with the Lord (1 Kings 19: 8-9); the city of Nineveh was given 40 days to repent (Jonah 3:4). As we move to the NT, and this is especially important for Catholics and fulfills the OT passages cited (i.e. the 40 days of preparation), we see Christ pray and fast for forty days before he begins his public ministry (c.f. Mt 4:2) and of course his public ministry will ultimately lead to the Cross.

We begin Lent with the marking of ashes, which in the Scriptures, is a biblical symbol of penance, which Lent is focused on. Along, with penance, we fast and give alms, as was alluded to earlier. Ashes, as a sign of repentance are evidenced in several OT passages (c.f. 1 Sam 4:12; 2 Sam 1:10) and also symbolize death and remind us of our mortality and God’s words expressed in the OT (c.f. Gen 3:19; Job 34:15; Psalm 90:3; 104:29). The Catholic Liturgy on Ash Wednesday echoes God’s words as the Priest says “Remember man, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shall return”. Catholic funeral Liturgies/Masses also echo this theme by saying “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

As early as the 2nd century, we see evidence of some type of Lenten preparation for Easter. For example, St. Irenaeus (140-202 AD) wrote a letter to the Bishop of Rome (Pope St. Victor) [these are the so called Fragments, which have survived based on being cited in later works among the Fathers] regarding the dispute over the date to celebrate Easter. Also in this letter was a reference to how long the fast should be kept before Easter. Eusebius (263 to 340 AD) in his History of the Church, Vol. 24 quotes St. Irenaeus and writes: “The dispute is not only about the day [i.e. Easter], but also about the actual character of the fast. Some think that they ought to fast one day, some for two, others still more; some make their ‘day’ last 40 hours on end. Such variation of observance did not originate in our own day, but very much earlier, in the time of our forefathers.”

Thus, the importance of this quote by Eusebius of St. Irenaeus illustrates that both Easter and some type of Lenten preparation where being celebrated in the 2nd century Church and has its roots back to the time of the Apostles. At the time of the Council of Nicea (325 AD), the method for calculating the date of Pascha/Easter was determined as well as the notion of a standard “40 day Lent preparation for Easter” as Canon 5 of the Council of Nicea states “two provincial synods should be held each year, one before the 40 days of Lent.” The standard 40 day Lent becomes the universal practice of the orthodox Catholic Tradition in the later 4th and early 5th centuries as evidenced in the writings of St. Athanansius, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Alexandria and Pope Leo the Great.

In closing, the notion of a Lenten preparation for Easter goes back to the early Church and the Liturgical practice of it predates the final formation of the NT Biblical canon, which does not occur until the end of the 4th century. In addition, the practice itself is fully supported by the sacred scriptures and actually brings to life the scriptures in the Liturgy of the Church. So, from the Catholic perspective, and I think the Orthodox Church would agree, Lent is a fully Apostolic Tradition supported by both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition and affirmed by the Council of Nicea in 325 AD.

Blessed Ash Wednesday to you.

15 posted on 02/25/2009 2:30:05 PM PST by CTrent1564
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To: reaganaut
My research area is Holy Women of the Later Middle Ages and their responses to death and disease.

Are you familiar with this one?


16 posted on 02/25/2009 4:10:27 PM PST by NYer ("Run from places of sin as from a plague." - St. John Climacus)
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To: NYer

I am familiar with the name, but that is all. Thanks for the link, I’ll check her out.

17 posted on 02/25/2009 4:54:44 PM PST by reaganaut (ex-mormon, now Christian. "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see")
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To: LiteKeeper; informavoracious; larose; RJR_fan; Prospero; Conservative Vermont Vet; ...
"Lightkeeper" says:
Some of us evangelical Christians are not celebrating Lent, believing that it is not biblical. In fact, there is evidence that “Lent” is derived from the Mystery Religions of Babylon.
What, exactly, is not "biblical" about fasting? Or penance? Or almsgiving? What "evidence" do you assert supports your implicit claim that celebrating Lent is a Babylonian Pagan celebration?
18 posted on 02/25/2009 8:06:10 PM PST by narses (
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To: narses
This Lent, live as if Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of your life
Reconciliation, forgiveness, hope – and Lent
Intro to Fast and Abstinence 101
Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself (with Scriptural references)

40 Ways to Improve Your Lent
Everything Lent (Lots of links)
The Best Kind of Fasting
Getting Serious About Lent
Lent Overview

Meditations on the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ [Devotional]
On Lent... and Lourdes (Benedict XVI's Angelus address)
Lent for Newbies
Lent -- 2008 -- Come and Pray Each Day
Lent: Why the Christian Must Deny Himself

Lenten Workshop [lots of ideas for all]
Lent and Reality
Forty Days (of Lent) [Devotional/Reflections]
Pope Benedict takes his own advice, plans to go on retreat for Lent
GUIDE FOR LENT - What the Catholic Church Says

Message of His Holiness Benedict XVI for Lent 2008
40 Days for Life: 2008 Campaigns [Lent Registration this week]
Vatican Web Site Focuses on Lent
Almsgiving [Lent]
Conversion Through Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving [Lent]

Feasting on Purple [Lent]
Lent: A Time for Prayer, Reflection and Giving
Denver Archbishop’s Lenten Message: “Restore us as a culture of Life”
Where does Ash Wednesday get its ashes?
Catholic Caucus: Daily Rosary Prayer for Lent

On the 40 Days of Lent General Audience of Pope Benedict XVI
Lenten Stations -- Stational Churches - visit each with us during Lent {Catholic Caucus}
Something New for Lent: Part I -- Holy Souls Saturdays
Reflections for Lent (February, March and April, 2007)
Lent 2007: The Love Letter Written by Pope Benedict

Pre-Lent through Easter Prayer and Reflections -- 2007
Stations of the Cross [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
For study and reflection during Lent - Mind, Heart, Soul [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Ash Wednesday and the Lenten Fast-Family observance Lenten season [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
Pre-Lenten Days -- Family activities-Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras)[Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]
40 Ways to Get the Most Out of Lent! [Catholic/Orthodox Caucus]

Lenten Fasting or Feasting? [Catholic Caucus]
Pope's Message for Lent-2007
THE TRUE NATURE OF FASTING (Catholic/Orthodox Caucus)
The Triduum and 40 Days
The Three Practices of Lent: Praying, Fasting. Almsgiving

Why We Need Lent
Lent a Time for Renewal, Says Benedict XVI
Why You Should Celebrate Lent
Getting the Most Out of Lent

Lent: A Time to Fast From Media and Criticism Says President of Pontifical Liturgical Institute
Give it up (making a Lenten sacrifice)
The History of Lent
The Holy Season of Lent -- Fast and Abstinence
The Holy Season of Lent -- The Stations of the Cross

Lent and Fasting
Mardi Gras' Catholic Roots [Shrove Tuesday]
Kids and Holiness: Making Lent Meaningful to Children
Ash Wednesday
All About Lent

19 posted on 02/25/2009 8:30:47 PM PST by Salvation ( †With God all things are possible.†)
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To: NYer

‘(And, by golly, that picture above looks like a Methodist minister wearing a deacon’s stole, doesn’t it? )’

He can wear a priest wanna-be outfit for Ash Wednesday, that’s all right, but I bet his congregation was deprived of the rather chilling yer ethereal sensation created by our priest saying the words, “Remember man, that thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return” LATIN!

Both Masses packed solid, even though not a holy day of obligation. Something appeals to Protestants and Catholics alike about Lent: a God-given chance to start over, and a formal, structured season with weekly special events and readings that makes it very easy to do so.

20 posted on 02/25/2009 11:19:00 PM PST by baa39 (Mater Dei, ora pro nobis.)
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To: CTrent1564; LiteKeeper

CTrent1564: Beautiful post, full of information, lovingly put. As an evangelical Presbyterian-becoming-Anglican, I’m really appreciating the Church calender now. My understanding of the relationship of sacred Tradition to scripture, is that of the great Anglican Reformer, Richard Hooker, who taught a kind of priority of authority (not a “3-legged stool” as many have misquoted) of Scripture, Reason, and Tradition....with the holy Bible alone being infallible, and the 1st authority, but, Tradition given high authority (much higher than typical evangelicals)—inasmuch it supports and backs up scripture.

The tradition of Lent is certainly one of those practices and interpretations of the Church which backs up and supports God’s holy Word—particularly in the life and example of our Lord Jesus.

About Lent being somehow “derived from the Mystery Religions of Babylon”:
Below this post find another posting, from an evangelical Presbyterian minister, relating to the celebration of THE most controversial day—to some evangelicals—connected to the Church calender (though that day really is NOT in the Calender), that gives a small history with terrific perspective about such things....

21 posted on 02/26/2009 6:00:17 AM PST by AnalogReigns
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To: CTrent1564; LiteKeeper

Halloween: A Distinctly Christian Holiday

by James B. Jordan

It has become routine in October for some Christian schools to send out letters warning parents about the evils of Halloween, and it has become equally routine for me to be asked questions about this matter.

“Halloween” is simply a contraction for All Hallow’s Eve (Hallow-Even—Hallow-E’n—Halloween). The word “hallow” means “saint,” in that “hallow” is just an alternative form of the word “holy” (“hallowed be Thy name”). All Saints’ Day is November 1. It is the celebration of the victory of the saints in union with Christ. The observance of various celebrations of All Saints arose in the late 300s, and these were united and fixed on Novemeber 1 in the late 700s. The origin of All Saints Day and All Saints Eve in Mediterranean Christianity had nothing to do with Celtic Druidism or the Church’s fight against Druidism (assuming there ever was any such thing as Druidism, which is actually a myth concocted in the 19th century by neo-pagans).

In the First Covenant, the war between God’s people and God’s enemies was fought on the human level against Egyptians, Assyrians, etc. With the coming of the New Covenant, however, we are told that our primary battle is against principalities and powers, against fallen angels who bind the hearts and minds of men in ignorance and fear. We are assured that through faith, prayer, and obedience, the saints will be victorious in our battle against these demonic forces. The Spirit assures us: “The God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly” (Romans 16:20).
The Festival of All Saints reminds us that though Jesus has finished His work, we have not finished ours. He has struck the decisive blow, but we have the privilege of working in the mopping up operation. Thus, century by century the Christian faith has rolled back the demonic realm of ignorance, fear, and superstition. Though things look bad in the Western world today, this work continues to make progress in Asia and Africa and Latin America.
The Biblical day begins in the preceding evening, and thus in the Church calendar, the eve of a day is the actual beginning of the festive day. Christmas Eve is most familiar to us, but there is also the Vigil of Holy Saturday that preceeds Easter Morn. Similarly, All Saints’ Eve precedes All Saints’ Day.

The concept, as dramatized in Christian custom, is quite simple: on October 31, the demonic realm tries one last time to achieve victory, but is banished by the joy of the Kingdom.

What is the means by which the demonic realm is vanquished? In a word: mockery. Satan’s great sin (and our great sin) is pride. Thus, to drive Satan from us, we ridicule him. This is why the custom arose of portraying Satan in a ridiculous red suit with horns and a tail. Nobody thinks the devil really looks like this; the Bible teaches that he is the fallen Arch-Cherub. Rather, the idea is to ridicule him because he has lost the battle with Jesus and he no longer has power over us.

(The tradition of mocking Satan and defeating him through joy and laughter plays a large role in Ray Bradbury’s classic novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes, which is a Halloween novel.)

The gargoyles that were placed on the churches of old had the same meaning. They symbolized the Church ridiculing the enemy—they stick out their tongues and make faces at those who would assault the Church. Gargoyles are not demonic; they are believers ridiculing the defeated demonic army.
Thus, the defeat of evil and of demonic powers is associated with Halloween. For this reason, Martin Luther posted his 95 challenges to the wicked practices of the Church on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on Halloween. He picked his day with care, and ever since, Halloween has also been Reformation Day.

Similarly, on All Hallows’ Eve, the custom arose of mocking the demonic realm by dressing children in costumes. Because the power of Satan has been broken once and for all, our children can mock him by dressing up like ghosts, goblins, and witches. The fact that we can dress our children this way shows our supreme confidence in the utter defeat of Satan by Jesus Christ—we have NO FEAR!

I don’t have the resources to check the historical origins of all Halloween customs, and doubtless they have varied from time to time and from Christian land to Christian land. “Trick or treat” doubtless originated simply enough: something fun for kids to do. Like anything else, this custom can be perverted, and there have been times when “tricking” involved really mean actions by teenagers and was banned from some localities.

We can hardly object, however, to children collecting candy from friends and neighbors. This might not mean much to us today, because we are so prosperous that we have candy whenever we want, but in earlier generations people were not so well off, and obtaining some candy or other treats was special. There is no reason to pour cold water on an innocent custom like this.

Similarly, the jack-o’-lantern’s origins are unknown. Hollowing out a gourd or some other vegetable, carving a face, and putting a lamp inside it is something that no doubt has occured quite independently to tens of thousands of ordinary people in hundreds of cultures worldwide over the centuries. Since people lit their homes with candles, decorating the candles and the candle-holders was a routine part of life designed to make the home attractive or interesting. Potatoes, turnips, beets, and any number of other items were used.

Wynn Parks writes of an incident he observed: “An English friend had managed to remove the skin of a tangerine in two intact halves. After carving eyes and nose in one hemisphere and a mouth in the other, he poured cooking oil over the pith sticking up in the lower half and lit the readymade wick. With its upper half on, the tangerine skin formed a miniature jack-o’-lantern. But my friend seemed puzzled that I should call it by that name. ‘What should I call it? Why a tangerine head, I suppose.’” (Parks, “The Head of the Dead,” The World & I, November 1994, p. 270.)
In the New World, people soon learned that pumpkins were admirably suited for this purpose. The jack-o’-lantern is nothing but a decoration; and the leftover pumpkins can be scraped again, roasted, and turned into pies and muffins.
In some cultures, what we call a jack-o’-lantern represented the face of a dead person, whose soul continued to have a presence in the fruit or vegetable used. But this has no particular relevance to Halloween customs. Did your mother tell you, while she carved the pumpkin, that this represented the head of a dead person with his soul trapped inside? Of course not. Symbols and decorations, like words, mean different things in different cultures, in different languages, and in different periods of history. The only relevant question is what does it mean now—and nowadays it is only a decoration.

And even if some earlier generation did associate the jack-o’-lantern with a soul in a head, so what? They did not take it seriously. It was just part of the joking mockery of heathendom by Christian people.

This is a good place to note that many articles in books, magazines, and encyclopedias are written by secular humanists or even the pop-pagans of the so-called “New Age” movement. (An example is the article by Wynn Parks cited above.) These people actively suppress the Christian associations of historic customs, and try to magnify the pagan associations. They do this to try to make paganism acceptable and downplay Christianity. Thus, Halloween, Christmas, Easter, etc., are said to have pagan origins. Not true.

Oddly, some fundamentalists have been influenced by these slanted views of history. These fundamentalists do not accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of Western history, American history, and science, but sometimes they do accept the humanist and pagan rewriting of the origins of Halloween and Christmas, the Christmas tree, etc. We can hope that in time these brethren will reexamine these matters as well. We ought not to let the pagans do our thinking for us.

Nowadays, children often dress up as superheroes, and the original Christian meaning of Halloween has been absorbed into popular culture. Also, with the present fad of “designer paganism” in the so-called New Age movement, some Christians are uneasy with dressing their children as spooks. So be it. But we should not forget that originally Halloween was a Christian custom, and there is is no solid reason why Christians cannot enjoy it as such even today.
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; Yahweh ridicules them” says Psalm 2. Let us join in His holy laughter and mock the enemies of Christ on October 31.

James Jordan is the founder and director of Biblical Horizons. This essay was originally published as “Concerning Halloween” in Open Book: Views and Reviews, an occasional newsletter published by Biblical Horizons, P. O. Box 1096, Niceville, FL 32588.

22 posted on 02/26/2009 6:03:57 AM PST by AnalogReigns
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To: AnalogReigns

Thanks analogreigns, I have been here a while and found that the polemics that “some folks” engage in here is unproductive and thus I don’t post as much as I use to. When I do post, I hope and pray that I do so in a charitable and Christian manner.

I hope you have a spritually benefecial Lenten season in preparation for the celebration of the Holy Tridumm.


23 posted on 02/26/2009 6:20:52 AM PST by CTrent1564
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To: LiteKeeper
Why did Christ fast and pray before Pascha? Do you know? What was He preparing for? Why prepare in such a way and not another alternative way?

Keep in mind, Christ Himself had made significant this time by His own actions.

24 posted on 02/26/2009 6:21:42 AM PST by SQUID
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To: Antoninus
the followers of Christ were wandering around in darkness for 1,700 years until your sect came along to set everything right

Ahem, you mean for 1970 years, 11 months and 3 days... (that's when Joe Bloggs got the revelation that on Easter we need to eat eggs sunny side up, not sunny side down)....
25 posted on 02/26/2009 7:21:39 AM PST by Cronos (Ceterum censeo, Mecca et Medina delenda est)
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