Sunday, October 31, 2010

A Favorite Day Among Days

I do not have many "favorite" days. True, there are the celebratory days of our lives--family remembrances, anniversaries, birthdays and such. Then there are the annual holidays that many people celebrate: Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving. I also love the liturgical holidays (or holy days)--Easter, and Christmas particularly.

But one of my favorite days is one that has morphed over the centuries--today is Hallowe'en. I insist on writing Hallowe'en, inserting the apostrophe to denote the missing V. Today is the day before All Saints' Day (November 1) and as such was celebrated in Christendom for centuries as All Hallows' Eve or Hallowed Evening. True, the church had appropriated this holiday from non-Christians worshippers, in this case the Celts. That history I will leave to another to tell.

No, what I like about this day is this is the day on which a German priest took a bold step that set the church on the road to reformation. That priest, Martin Luther, who had been wrestling with the abuses he witnessed in the Catholic Church, wrote a series of statements--95 theses. Whether Luther posted them on the door of the Wittenberg University(in Germany) All Saints' Church or whether someone else posted them, they reportedly became public on this day. You can read them by going here.

The bold act of writing these 95 theses or statements might not alone have set of the cascade of events that followed, but around the same time, the printing press had been developed, and when the 95 theses were printed and widely circulated, they stirred up a storm. Luther was primarily protesting the practice of the time which amounted to purchasing salvation. A papal legate Johann Tetzel had been dispatched to Germany to sell indulgences. Indulgence is essentially forgiveness for sins committed, but the practice at the time had become corrupted so that forgiveness was being sold. The money raised was to be used to renovate St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. Luther found this practice abhorrent.

Luther protested this practice. He had come to an understanding that salvation was a matter of sola fide--faith alone.

Of course, there were many events that nudged along the cause of the Reformation prior to Luther's bold act. There also many events that followed. There were other reformers. The move toward reforming the Christian church was not one long smooth simple course. Luther himself was excommunicated. He had to defend his increasing disaffection with the Catholic Church. He did so, in part, before the Diet of Worms, in the cathedral in Worms, Germany. It was here in response to the charges that he uttered his famous "Here I stand; I can do no other" statement.

It is for the posting of the 95 theses on October 31, 1517 that this day is remembered as Reformation Day. It is celebrated especially by Lutherans* on the Sunday closest to the 31st of October. This year, the day and celebration coincide.

So, here we are at All Hallows' Eve or Hallowe'en, all wrapped up with Reformation Sunday, and a famous priest of five centuries ago taking a bold stand--that's why this is a favorite day for me among days.
IMAGE--of the Wittenberg Door from Wikipedia.

*For the record, I am not a Lutheran, but a Presbyterian. The founding reformers for Presbyterians are John Calvin and John Knox. But, that--as they say--is another story.


Ruth said...

I did not know about Reformation Day. Very interesting history lesson.

NCmountainwoman said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I rarely think of All Saints or All Souls until we are in church with the solemn readings and remembrances of members who have died in the past year. It seems surprising that I don't think about it since it falls on Hallowe'en (never wrote it that way before) every single year.

As for holiday itself, I like Hallowe'en much more now than I did when I was younger. Perhaps because we have only three trick-or-treaters dropping by and no costume parties to attend. I always hated costume parties.

Beverly said...

Thanks for your post. Having been raised a Baptist, a lot of things were overlooked. My children went to a Christian school which was started by the Christian Reformed Church in our town, so I learned more about Reformation Day then than when I was younger.

I do like your spelling of Hallowe'en.

Jayne said...

Really fascinating history. Thanks for refreshing our memories Donna. :c)

Anvilcloud said...

Thanks for the Halloween lesson. Interesting. I insist on no apostrophe. :)

possumlady said...

Growing up Catholic and going to Catholic grade and high schools, I had NO information on other religions until I started reading up on my own. Fascinating and powerful stuff!

(I must say my favorite fall holiday is today "Dia de los Muertos". Have my altar ready for tonight!)