All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation

The dark is bright with quiet lives and steady lights undimmed

Halloween seems to be creeping up on Christmas in the crass commercialism stakes, even here in England, where the tradition is less strong! Halloween itself simply means the eve of all Hallows, and All Hallows is the Christian feast of All Saints, or All Saints Day’ a day when we think particularly of those souls in bliss who, even in this life, kindled a light for us, or to speak more exactly, reflected for us and to us, the already-kindled light of Christ!,  It is followed immediately on November 2nd by All Souls Day. the day we remember all the souls who have gone before us into the light of Heaven.  It is good that we should have a season of the year for remembrance and a time when we feel that the veil between time and eternity is thin and we can sense that greater and wider communion of saints to which we belong. It is also good and right that the Church settled this feast on a time in the turning of the year when the pre-Christian Celtic religions were accustomed to think of and make offerings for the dead. But it was right that, though they kept the day, they changed the custom. The greatest and only offering, to redeem both the living and the dead, has been made by Christ and if we want to celebrate our loving connections we need only now make gifts to the living, as we do in offering sweets to the ‘trick or treaters’ in this season, and far more profoundly in exchanging gifts at Christmas.

Anyway, given that both these seasons of hospitality and exchange have been so wrenched from their first purpose in order to sell tinsel and sweeties, I thought I might redress the balance a little and reclaim this season with a sonnet for All Souls/All Saints that remembers the light that shines in darkness, who first kindled it, and how we can all reflect it.

If your church is marking all saints or all souls day do feel free to print the words or use the recording.

The image which follows this poem, and takes up one of its key lines, is by Margot Krebs Neale. As always you can hear the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button if it appears, or on the title.

This sonnet are  from Sounding the Seasons, the collection of my sonnets for the church year, published by Canterbury Press,

All Saints

Though Satan breaks our dark glass into shards

Each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light,

It glances from the eyes, kindles the words

Of all his unknown saints. The dark is bright

With quiet lives and steady lights undimmed,

The witness of the ones we shunned and shamed.

Plain in our sight and far beyond our seeing

He weaves them with us in the web of being

They stand beside us even as we grieve,

The lone and left behind whom no one claimed,

Unnumbered multitudes, he lifts above

The shadow of the gibbet and the grave,

To triumph where all saints are known and named;

The gathered glories of His wounded love.

‘Each shard still shines’ image by Margot Krebs Neale


Filed under christianity, imagination, literature, Poems

14 responses to “All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation

  1. So very good, Malcolm – I Cor. 13:12.

  2. Reblogged this on Pastor Michael Moore's Blog and commented:
    A beautiful reminder, Malcolm!

  3. Kevin

    Thank you MG for connecting me to God’s word in dark times. (John 1:5 for me)
    Loving the illumination and rumination that you bring to the table.

  4. such a good reminder, sir and you say it so well. My sentiments exactly–let’s take the Kingdom back.
    Thank you.

  5. Thank you for such a lovely reflection on the “splintered light” of the saints who have gone before and the re-focus on All Saints Day. I have taken the liberty of sharing this on my author Facebook page.

  6. This is amazing Malcom. I would love to share it!

  7. Pat Conneen

    I love this poem so much. Thank you again for it. In my own attempt to redress the imbalance I’ve taken to seeing every jack-o-lantern as a metaphor for what Christ does in our lives. He reaches into our souls, scoops out the gunk and places his light inside us. And hopefully the light shines forth from our faces.

  8. Jan Dacombe

    Thank you Malcolm – very much needed. Halloween has taken over – even the Police HQ had a Halloween Party. Most of the shops in our town have gone overboard and so have houses in our road. Quite a few elderly people find it very frightening, especially if they live on their own. Looking forward to All Souls when we remember our dead. May a light always shine in the dark. God bless, Jan.

  9. Malcolm, I am a fundamental Christian.My faith in Christ’s redeeming love and work on the cross, means that I believe,not every family member will be in heaven, if they have shunned Christs salvation offered to them? The sentiment is cosy and comforting, but the reality,if I understand it from the scripture, is not so for unbelievers.Christians need not try and sanctify pagan customs and traditions? With respect to you, whose talent I admire and so appreciate and value

    • malcolmguite

      Thanks for your comment Melanie. I certainly believe that it is Christ’s saving work that wins us a place in heaven but only Christ himself can know who has accepted and who has ultimately shunned his free gift of salvation. So I live in hope that even those who have seemed to reject faith in this life will not reject Christ when the veil falls away and they see his face. But it is my hope. It is not a certainty.

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