Thursday, October 29, 2009

La Ofrenda: All Saints Sunday and remembering those we love who are just beyond our horizon

This Sunday, November 1, is a major feast day on the Christian calendar -- All Saints Day.

All Saints Sunday 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 hell 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 we are continuing with a tradition we began last year 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. La Ofrenda is a major element of El Dia de los Muertos, Mexico's "Day of the Dead," and is popular in churches throughout California and the Southwest. I've seen many over the years and all of them are powerful.

This Sunday, please bring something that represents someone you love who has died; a photograph or a poem, or a candle or a paper flower. We will leave up our ofrendas until the first Sunday of Advent on November 29.

Last year our first Ofrenda was so popular we set up two more. Here are some photographs of Las Ofrendas at St. Paul's last year. I am told that we were the only Episcopal Church in Virginia with a Ofrendas, an honor I hope other churches might share with us this year.

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