For a very long time, the month of November has been associated with remembrance. Perhaps the weather and the falling leaves make us think of mortality. As we sing in ‘Abide with me’: ‘change and decay in all around I see’.
Our pagan ancestors apparently set this time of year aside as a time to remember the spirits of those gone before us. And in the year 835, the Christian church set aside 1st November as All Saints Day. That was a day when we remember all those martyrs and saints whose heroic faithfulness speaks to us of the victory of Jesus Christ.
In medieval times, the night before All Saints became a time when the conflict between good and evil was dramatized in various customs and rituals. These rituals on All Hallows Eve or Halloween (hallow meaning holy) were originally intended to show that goodness always conquers evil, light conquers darkness, because of the cross and resurrection of Christ. Obviously those rituals have got a bit confused in the modern age!
In the year 1000, 2nd November was set aside as All Souls Day. This is the day when we remember all our departed friends and relatives. Remembering those close to us who have died will always be sad. Grief is a very powerful thing, even after many years. But the Christian faith teaches that Jesus Christ gives light in darkness, hope in sadness, faith instead of despair. When Christians remember their departed, we do so with sadness but also with the confidence in eternal life that our resurrection faith brings us.
All Saints Day and All Souls Day are important days in the church’s year. We will be celebrating All Saints Day at All Saints’ Church, Matlock Bank on Thursday 1st November at 7.30 pm. There is also an earlier celebration of the Eucharist at Saint Giles at 10 am that morning. Then on All Souls Day, Friday 2nd November, there will be a Requiem Eucharist at Saint Giles at 7.30 pm. During this service, people are invited to come to the front and light a lamp in memory of those they particularly are thinking about.
In the light of all this, it was a strange coincidence that the First World War with its terrible devastation and cost in human lives, came to an end on 11th November. This year the memories will be particularly poignant as it is now a hundred years since hostilities ended. Sadly, it has been a hundred years of more wars and conflicts.
Remembrance isn’t just a time of looking to the past but also to the future, a time to pray and work for an end to all conflict. Remembrance is never about nostalgia but about learning from the past and looking forward in hope.
With every good wish from Mark Crowther-Alwyn