A Halloween sermon by Pete Bertolero
In 844 Pope Gregory IV, in an attempt to supplant and replace the Pagan winter solstice festival of Samhain (Day of the Dead) moved the feast of All Saints Day to November 1st and extended the celebration to the entire Roman Catholic Church.
The origin of the custom of putting lights in carved vegetables was with the "pagan" pre-Christian Druids in northern Celtic lands. Before and during Druidic ceremonies the hooded practitioners would hang a carved and lighted turnip around their necks to serve as a "spirit guide" to get them to and safely through the spiritually and physically dangerous procedures, which sometimes included human sacrifice. It's hard to argue that the human-sacrifice part was not evil.
Around 609-610 A.D., the Roman Emperor Phocas presented the infamous Roman Pantheon, once the temple that housed the many gods of Rome, as a gift to Pope Boniface. The Pope accepted the gift and dedicated it as a Christian church!
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THE HISTORY OF HALLOWMAS
The earliest mention of an unfolding attitude toward the death of martyrs in the New Testament, is typified in the death of John the Baptist in Matthew 14:1-12. After John is unceremoniously beheaded in Herod’s dungeon, we are told that his disciples daringly stepped forward and claimed his body, which was given to them. They then went and respectfully gave it a proper burial. This kind of respectful treatment of a martyred Christian is repeated almost verbatim in Acts 7. This time it was one of the seven deacons appointed in Acts chapter 6. Whose name was Stephen. After Stephen's fearless, eloquent defense of the Christian faith, he was stoned to death by a Jewish mob. Afterward, in chapter 8:2 we are told that Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.
The earliest official mention of a developing Christian tradition concerning post-mortem honoring of the dead was made by Ephraim the Syrian who mentioned it in passing in one of his sermons. John Chrisostom in 407 A.D. mentioned it in his 74th sermon. So it seems that Christians in the first centuries after our Lord's Ascension were becoming accustomed to solemnizing the anniversaries of the day of a particular local martyrs death. This was also true of particular sites where martyrs spilled their blood. Churches were built on these supposed sites, or as near to them as possible. This process continued as the early church continued to add more and more martyrs to the list, and was in full swing by the time regular canonization was established. This process will be explained as this article continues.
By the fourth century, churches began to exchange feast days, and the celebration of the martyrdom of a particular saint became less and less localized to one parish. Soon relics of martyrs were also divided and shared between parishes, and joint feasts brought multiple congregations together in one place to honor either a single hero or whole groups of martyrs who were killed for their faith on the same day. From this development the stage was set for larger and broader participation in the commemoration of a particular martyrs feast day. Even though a local martyr may have once been only celebrated by his/her home parish, it came to pass that more and more often, especially in the case of a popular or sensational martyrs death, celebrations grew less localized as other congregations sought to identify with the popular martyrs feast day.
Because of the increased persecution of Christians it became difficult to assign each martyr their own feast day. In the reign of Diocletian alone, so many Christians were put to death for their faith that there were no more days left in the year to be assigned them. The Church however, felt strongly that each martyr should be venerated (shown reverential respect). The Roman Catholic Church solved this problem by appointing one special day in the year for all those martyrs who were not assigned their own day of veneration.
So the natural development of an official feast day for the entire Christian church slowly and naturally evolved. Around 609-610 A.D., the Roman Emperor Phocas presented the infamous Roman Pantheon, once the temple that housed the many gods of Rome, as a gift to Pope Boniface. The Pope accepted the gift and dedicated it as a Christian church in honor of the Virgin Mary and all Christian martyrs to be celebrated annually on May 13th. He called it The Feast of All Martyrs.
In 741 A.D. Pope Gregory III seized the opportunity as he was consecrating a chapel at St. Peters church to expand the focus of the festival instituted by Boniface to include not only those who died a martyrs death, but all those who died in the Christian faith. He renamed the feast All Saints Day.
In 844 Pope Gregory IV, in an attempt to supplant and replace the Pagan winter solstice festival of Samhain (Day of the Dead) moved the feast of All Saints Day to November 1st and extended the celebration to the entire Roman Catholic Church. In 998 A.D. a local church in Cluny, France, added All Souls Day on November the 2nd. This soon became a popular addition to All Saints Day, and widely celebrated by all Christians. By 1484 A.D. Pope Sixtus IV established November 1st as the feast of All Saints as a holiday of obligation for all Roman Catholic Christians, requiring them to not do any secular labor for the duration of the festival. He officially assigned to it it’s own vigil, to be observed on October 31st, and called it All Hallows. Following the feast on November 1st, was the November 2nd All Souls Day. From November 1st the Pope instituted an octave, or eight day celebration. The entire period of time from October 31st to November 8th was called Hallowmas.
In 1955 the octave was no longer required to be celebrated. Hallowmas was reduced to the vigil (All Hallows), followed by All Saints Day (Nov. 1st), followed by All Souls Day on November the 2nd. The term Halloween is an adaptation of All Hallowed Eve, or All Hallows evening. It’s correct spelling and pronunciation is Hallow E’en, and served in the same capacity as Christmas “Eve”. Hallows was an old English way of saying “Saints.”