The month of November is the Month of the Dead. “El dia de los Muertos” (The Day of the Dead.) is the title given in Mexico. Anyone who has seen the Bond film “Spectre” will remember the amazing opening scenes of a great procession of people dressed, among other things, in skeleton suits. Like many people, I thought that this was an annual event – until I learned that it was invented for the Bond movie. “El dia de los Muertos” is indeed celebrated, but only with intimate gatherings at churches and graveyards to pray for the dead. This takes place on All Souls’ Day. Since “Spectre”, Mexico City has decided to keep the procession going each year, not on November 2nd but on All Saints’ Eve (Hallow’een in this country.)
In this country, we have gotten used to all the rubbish that is peddled on All Saints’ Eve (31st October). A pity that it, like most things, is driven by commercialism. Parents dragging their children around supermarkets are forced to buy yet another load of tat, some of it decidedly sinister. It is sad to see that graveyards and churches are associated by many people (and the young, in particular) with ghosts and ghouls, murder and fear. When I tell young people that I sometimes enter Holy Trinity Church in the dark (morning or evening as the year draws to a close) they respond universally with the question, “Aren’t you afraid?” I thought that the perfect love of God was meant to cast out fear – not generate it. Mind you, I do like the Mexican tradition (real) of decorating graves with fake skulls. Medieval vestments worn at a requiem were always black with decorations of skulls and bones.
So, the month begins with the dead. The dead who are now raised to glory in the great Feast of All Saints’ -and the dead who are waiting for the General Resurrection and are now being purged of their sins through the love of God. These we commemorate on All Souls’ Day with the lighting of candles and the offering of requiems. Don’t miss mass on these two days. Holy Trinity isn’t the only church keeping these holy days. If you can’t get to mass then light a candle and pray in your own home.
Armistice Day and so-called Armistice Sunday fall this year on the 11th and 12th. Again, requiems are offered for the dead. For those who don’t know what the title means, it comes from the opening chant for the day, “Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord, and let light perpetual shine upon them.” “Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.” It is a mass of rest for the dead – resting in the peace of God.
Gathering around cenotaphs is laudable – but it is the gathering of the faithful at mass which is most truly Christian. Don’t let the former replace the latter. It is one thing to remember the dead, it is another to pray for them. Only one action proclaims the resurrection victory of Christ our Lord and King.
Then comes, in this parish, the Dedication Festival. It was on November 19th that the then Bishop of Stafford consecrated the Hamil Road Church as Sneyd Parish Church. This year it falls on a Sunday but we will be keeping it on the Monday evening. It is a celebration tinged with sadness. We sing an hymn in honour of those who have worshipped with us and now sleep in Christ’s peace. Yet the sadness must give way to hope and expectation.
Sing praise, then, for all who here sought and here found Him.
Whose journey is ended, whose perils are past.
They believed in the light and its glory is round them,
Where the clouds of earth’s sorrow are lifted at last.
The month ends with the end of the old Church Year. The Feast of Christ the King falls on the 26th. It is the culmination of all that started with Advent last year and also looks forward to the beginning of a new Advent. Before the Feast of Christ the King was introduced, the last Sunday of the old year was called “Stir up Sunday”. It originates with the Collect for the Day, “Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful servants…” Traditionally, this is the day to mix the ingredients of the Christmass Pudding. My Aunt May used to make a Christmass Pudding for her own family as well as her brothers and sisters. Quite a feat, given that made for six or seven puddings. Threepenny bits were hidden in the mix – luck or unlucky for some, depending on the care taken when eating the wonderful creation. Inflation produced the move to sixpences.
Enjoy this month and get ready for the next!