One might say that Catholics are Bell, Book, and Candle people. This phrase relates to the traditional rite of exorcism in the Catholic Church and the ceremonial objects she uses to signify that from which heretics, apostates, and schismatics separate themselves: the sonorous music of heaven, the living word of God and the abiding light of Christ. While exorcism seems a thing of the past as far as modern-day Christians are concerned, these residual symbols still carry a great deal of significance, and I daresay, represent for the Church her glorious triduum we celebrate during Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.
Ponder Ralph Waldo Emerson’s lovely poem, The Bell:
I love thy music, mellow bell,
I love thine iron chime,
To life or death, to heaven or hell,
Which calls the sons of Time.
Thy voice upon the deep
The home-bound sea-boy hails,
It charms his cares to sleep,
It cheers him as he sails.
To house of God and heavenly joys
Thy summons called our sires,
And good men thought thy sacred voice
Disarmed the thunder's fires.
And soon thy music, sad death-bell,
Shall lift its notes once more,
And mix my requiem with the wind
That sweeps my native shore.
With Emerson’s haunting imagery, one may be led to think of the Church bell that beckons the faithful to prayer, ringing throughout the ages with inspiration to induce courage, offering warning and even calling to mourn men and women of all ages. Halloween is a notably high point of our call, in which we dance before death and all that is fearsome, knowing there are higher glories awaiting us.
Scriptures refers to itself as the Book of Life (Revelation 10:15), and Our Lord says within it are written the names of those in heaven (Luke 10:20). In it is contained all the revelation necessary for the salvation of mankind, with prophecy, promise and fulfillment spelled out over its many pages. And isn’t that what we reflect on and honor in the feast of All Saints? That some of us have gone ahead marked with the cross and love for God, while they beckon us and intercede on our behalf so we might join them? Oh, what a glorious faith we share!
This most humble symbol holds the mightiest significance: “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). “Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” I Am, the unutterable and immutable Almighty refers to himself as our “illumination.” If that weren’t enough, He desires that we be drawn to him like moths to a flame. He promises us eternal light and life if we but follow His light in our short sojourn here on earth. And on All Souls Day, we celebrate not only the pursuit of the Lord in life but even our loved ones who go before us in death. Follow we do, right up to the limits of the grave with the unwavering light of faith. It is our solemn responsibility and hope that with fidelity, we too may join them in our heavenly home.
No holier time exists in the Church during these three days apart from that hope to which we aspire in Advent, the love we sing about throughout Christmastime, the humbling mortifications we inflict on ourselves during penitential Lent, and the joy we celebrate throughout Eastertime. Bountifully have we been blessed in our Catholic faith with safe refuge in the Church while on earth, until we find our true and lasting home in heaven. Onward, Christian soldiers, arrayed in splendor. To arms! Our savior awaits us!