As we come towards Hallowe’en, its worth remembering that the word Hallowe’en 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,
I am having trouble embedding the media player but if you click on the title it will take you to an audioboom page which on which you can play the recording
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.
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7 responses to “All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation”
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not (yet) having luck in the eastern U.S. getting the audio to load…? Anyone having luck? Reading is the cake, but Malcolm reading is the icing… And who doesn’t love the icing? 😉
Loved this poem. Here on the east coast of the US I usually never have any trouble loading the audio, but today it simply isn’t loading for me. I keep getting a message telling me the site can’t be reached.
Thanks I’ve fixed the problem. Just click on the title and it’ll take you to a page where you can play the recording
I loved this sonnet! The Lord has given you such a gift. Thank you for sharing.
For some reason, I can no longer play your wonderful sonnets. All I get is WordPress home page. Is there anyone else having trouble?
I know that some of the ones recorded years ago on audioboom are not loading. But the recent ones should all work