Sunday, October 26, 2008

Next Sunday's ofrenda: An invitation

Next Sunday is a major feast day on the Christian calendar -- All Saints Day. The day has its origins in the ancient church when it was celebrated on the Saturday before Easter -- the day now called Holy Saturday when Jesus descends to the dead to free everyone from the grip of death. All Saints and All Souls days merged to become special masses for martyrs and those who had died anonymously. In later centuries, the day shifted into the weeks before Advent, and the day we now call "Halloween" is actually All Hallows Eve, or the even of All Souls Day.

This year I am bringing a tradition to St. Paul's from the part of the world where I come: La Ofrenda, a special table  in the church where we display items representing people we love who have died, maybe a photograph or a poem, or a candle and a paper flower. I wrote about this a week ago on this blog, and so I am doing so again to invite you to bring something for our ofrenda next week.

La Ofrenda comes from the Mexican "Day of the Dead" where people have a party in the cemetery so their dead relatives can join them. I am not recommending parties in any Charlottesville cemeteries, but I do hope you will bring something for our ofrenda at St. Paul's. We will leave the table up through November, and you can retrieve your items on the First Sunday of Advent.

On this blog are more photos from some amazing ofrendas in various churches.


Robert Christian said...

I just attended a viewing for one of my mother's friends from out former parish. They had something similar there and a closed casket. it was nice to see so many pictures of the various times of this wonderful woman's life.

I sent the information on Ofrenda and your website to our rector.

Ginger Greene said...

Jim: Your mention of parties in the graveyard brought back a memory to me. The church I used to go to in Washington (Christ Church Capitol Hill) always had a procession on foot through Congressional Cemetery on All Saints’ Day. A vested crucifer would read out, very loudly, the names of all the past year’s deceased members of Christ Church, as well as names requested by members of the congregation, as we wound our way past the cenotaphs representing assorted long-gone members of Congress. We ended up at the (very small) chapel there and held a service. A good way to remember the departed ones, I always thought.

The Rev. James Richardson said...

Thanks to Robert and Ginger for your comments.
By the way, the "cenotaph" is a monolithic monument that has its roots in Holy Saturday and the idea of Jesus descending into Hell to free sinners (see the Apostles Creed). I will blog on Holy Saturday and cenotaphs, probably in Lent. The most famous of the cenotaphs was put up after World War I outside of Whitehall in London, and was copied world wide into the 1920s-30s. You may note many Civil War monuments in the U.S. were erected in the post-World War I years and are copies of the London cenotaph (sometimes with a horse and rider on top or heroic depiction). One can argue those Civil War monuments had more to do with World War I grief than the earlier war. Ok, there is enough esoterica for one day...

J and J Gillam said...

June and Jerry Gillam from Sacramento say Vive La Ofrenda! We plan to march in the St. Mary's Day of the Dead march here soon. Blessings to you all.