All Saints Day

Excerpt from Psalm 149

“Let the saints be joyful in glory.” (KJV)

Reflection by Christina Villa

Every year on November 1, All Saints Day, I remember Sacred Heart cemetery in the town where I grew up.  It was a huge Polish cemetery situated on a long sloping hill next to a busy intersection. Starting at dusk on November 1, the eve of the Catholic All Souls Day, the entire cemetery would be lit up with thousands of red votive candles on nearly every grave.  It looked like the dead were getting ready to have a party and had turned on all the lights in the house. 

It sounds weird to say that the cemetery looked festive, but that’s exactly how it looked.  Lit up like Times Square, it looked more like life than death.  It confused the categories of living and dead.  It made the dead seem less separated from us, and not so different from us.  When I was a child, those candles burning all night on all those graves used to make me think that it must make the dead people happy.

Of course that’s a childish belief with no theological depth, but now I wonder: why not?  If death is not the end, then it’s not the end of celebration or joy.  And not just the theoretical, pie-in-the-sky kind of celebration and joy, either.  The real thing, the exact same happiness we know now, the kind that makes us light Advent candles and put up Christmas lights.  The kind of happiness that makes us wish it could last forever.  And possibly, it does. 


Here’s hoping perpetual light means lasting joy.  Amen.

About the Author
Christina Villa is on the staff of the United Church of Christ in Cleveland, Ohio.