Saturday, November 5, 2011

La Ofrenda: Remembering those we love just beyond our horizon

Tomorrow we observe All Saints Sunday, with 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.

At St. Paul's we are continuing with a tradition we began three years ago 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 testimonies not just to the dead, but to the living who carry in their hearts the memories of those who have died.

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 27.

The first year our first Ofrenda was so popular we set up two more, and this year we will have at least three, including one in the church school (children are invited to bring photos of loved ones and pets who have died). At the top is a photograph of one of the ofrendas at St. Paul's from last year.

I've also added photos here of a two spectacular ofrendas with the "Day of the Dead" theme that I saw a few years ago at Missions San Juan Bautista and Santa Clara in California.

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