As the evenings gain a distinct Autumnal coolness, as the nights draw in and the clocks go back, as we draw our curtains early in the evenings, at this time of year it feels natural to ‘batten down the hatches’, to draw and gather in those close to us, to start to prepare for the impending Winter by beginning to hibernate and get cosy by our firesides.
For the Celtic Christian ancestors this time of year was not just a time to turn inwards and to stay shut away, but to a time to Celebrate. For some Celts 31 October was Samhein ‘summers end’ and was greeted by tribal gatherings, games, feasts and entertainments. For others it marked the beginning of the Celtic New Year. For us, as we approach the Season and approaching death of the Winter months, it seems natural for the Church to mark this time with our annual Season of Remembrance. We shall be marking and celebrating all three Festivals of Remembrance during the month of November.
Remembrance Sunday (which this year falls on Sunday 8 November) will be observed fully in all four Churches of the Benefice. On Remembrance Sunday, we shall be remembering not just those who gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars, but also those who gave their lives in all the recent conflicts since, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those still serving there.
Remembrance is not only about Remembrance Sunday: the month of November is also in the Church, All Saints Tide, when we remember and celebrate ‘the lights who have gone before us’, the saints we know, and have known, and all those who have encouraged us in the Way of Faith in our lives. We shall be celebrating Marazion’s Feast Day of All Saints at All Saints, Marazion on 1 November at 11.00am in the morning and coming together for a special Benefice All Saints Evensong at St Hilary Church together with the Deanery Choir on All Saints Sunday evening, 1 November.
We shall also be remembering our loved ones who have died on All Souls Day at a Benefice All Souls Service the following evening, Monday 2 November, at Marazion, to which all are welcome. Lists are available in all the churches to recall and remember those who have died and all the names and loved ones we seek to recall before God will be read out during this Service.
Coloured by the red of the poppies on lapels, November and the coming Winter can be a reflective, salutary, sombre, if not a sad, time of the year but both All Saints Day and All Souls Day should be regarded as a Celebratory Time: Christians believe that the Life we enjoy and struggle with on Earth, especially through the approaching dark days of Winter, is not all there is, but that through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, a Way is prepared for each of us, and our loved ones who have gone before us, through Death to Life Everlasting, a glorious and hopeful future with our Heavenly Father in his Kingdom of Heaven: All Saints Tide then becomes a very positive reason to celebrate God’s Love and provision and wonderful future that awaits us all after our life on Earth is over.
And far from withdrawing into our private worlds from the rigours of the impending Winter, we are planning this year to recall another fateful event in our history, ‘to remember, remember the 5th of November’, coming out of our homes and gathering around a campfire. Although we recall ‘the triumph of democracy’ on Bonfire Night, against the conspiracy to blow up the Houses of Parliament, the ongoing MPs expenses scandal, the loss of any sense of morality around many of the outrageous claims submitted, many MPs constant refrain that ‘we were only acting within the rules’ and the dearth of political ideas to deal with the current economic crisis may well give Bonfire Night an added edge this year: many will perhaps secretly be thinking that it might be a good idea had Guy Fawkes succeeded all those years ago (!) or whether we need a new present-day Guy Fawkes to stir up and shake up the cosy and seemingly corrupt establishment of our current parliamentary system!
There is something defiant and evocative about the lighting of a bonfire, the sparkle and fizzle of the fireworks lighting up the dark sky on 5 November, the smell of the spent cordite and hot food, and gathering of the empty firework shells. We hope to have a happy night on Bonfire Night 5 in the Rectory Garden at Ludgvan, an event especially planned by and for the families of the Benefice (but not exclusively so) and everyone is welcome to come along: tickets are now on sale for this ‘Remembrance Event’ and Celebration!
Many acts of Remembrance will be taking place in the next month. Let this Season not only a reflective and sombre time, but also a time of joy, as we restate our belief in the New Life Jesus has prepared for us and our loved ones, and as we gather together in the darkness to sip our soup and munch our hotdogs by the Bonfire and to defy the coming Winter with a Celebration of Light and Song.
Revd Nigel Marns
Rector of St Piran's & St Michael's, Perranuthnoe