All Hallow’s Eve; a sonnet of reclamation

The dark is bright with quiet lives and steady lights undimmed

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,

As always you can hear me read the sonnet if you click on the player button or the title of the poem


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

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Filed under imagination

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

  1. Carolyn Curtis

    Love this, Malcolm… one of your best! And so timely…

    Carolyn Curtis
    Author | Speaker
    817.991.7602 mobile

  2. Paul Gilmore

    A great piece, I love the imagery ‘each shard still shines with Christ’s reflected light’. My own sonnet on All Hallows Eve. Paul


    On this all hallows evening,
    all baser strongholds are undone,
    although darkness, yet unbelieving,
    in the light shining brighter than the sun.
    On another evening holy,
    when human hearts had grown cold,
    the light has come infant-born, and lowly
    in the stable story told.
    On this evening holy,
    and of his own volition,
    God alone lifts up the lowly
    and sets them free from superstition:
    God is not constrained by doubting days or hours
    God is not defamed by principalities and powers.

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  5. Dear Mr. Guite, Thank you for capturing for me the redeemed brokenness Christ is affecting through his own brokenness, “The gathered glories of His wounded love.” May I, in lieu of coffee, offer you some home made bread instead to go with your coffee? Seeing your appetite for the sonnet and your use of poetry to unveil the spiritual sight God has given you, I thought this attempt at a sonnet might tickle your taste buds and sit well in your soul. (This may be just a rationalization, but in the last line, even the sonnet’s form must bow to the Lordship of Christ!) Blessings, David Weaver


    No wonder, from the tree the leaf springs gold,

    As priceless life unfurls, from toil yet free,

    Its only effort to receive and be

    Alive, a suckling of the branch that holds

    It up to feel the sun, learn it’s desire

    To resurrect dead breath to life anew,

    Though leaf subside to leaf, creating through

    The dusky summer leaf a liquid fire

    As its due sacrifice of humble praise.

    The leaf succumbs, absorbs the fall, bleeds red,

    With joy before hangs on the tree till dead,

    Then flies en masse to kiss the feet ablaze.

    If this leaf knows to bring such offering,

    Shall I give less from whom, through whom, to whom belongs all things?

    David J. Weaver 11-8-21

    With people I love approaching death this autumn, I needed to see in autumn a truer redemption narrative than mere end of life, to bring my heart into line with reality on a spiritual level.

    “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” Romans 11:36

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