By Hank Hanegraaff
First, it is important to recognize that Halloween quite literally signifies “Saint’s evening.” Thus, far from merely secular, Hallowe’en (Hallows’ Eve) is prelude to, and the preparation for, the transcendently important feast of All Saints’ Day. On this sacred holiday (holy day), embodied saints worldwide experientially engage the “great cloud of witnesses” who serve as exemplars in “the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12). Apostolic Fathers such as Ignatius of Antioch, who upon approaching martyrdom surrendered his body as “the wheat of Christ, ground by the teeth of beasts to become pure bread.” As well as saints who throughout history were “persecuted because of righteousness”—saints whose inheritance is nothing short of the “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).
Furthermore, it is instructive to note that in the early centuries of Christianity, the church observed the tandem of All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day on the Sunday following Pentecost. In evidence, we find reference to this sacred and satisfying observance in the fourth century writings of St. Ephrem the Syrian, roundly remembered in the present for his brilliant Commentary on Genesis, and St. John Chrysostom, renown for The Divine Liturgy. While Eastern Orthodoxy has perpetuated the celebration of All Saints’ Day on the Sunday following Pentecost, Roman Catholics have altered their liturgical calendar, establishing the triduum of All Hallows’ Eve (October 31), All Saints’ Day (November 1), and All Souls’ Day (November 2)—the latter inextricably connected to the dogma of Purgatory, an ecclesiastical innovation defined by the Council of Florence in 1439 and defended by the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century (see What about Purgatory?).
Finally, while Hallowe’en is rooted and grounded in sacramental spirituality, today it is largely secular—even pagan. Thus, the question, “How should Christians respond?” Should we participate? Accommodate? Or vigorously denounce modern iterations of Hallowe’en? In response, we do well to remember the words of our Lord. “You are the salt of the earth….You are the light of the world….Let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13–16). One way of doing so is to go back to when the church was young. To remember and emulate the commitment of martyrs, saints, and confessors, who were willing to stand for truth no matter the cost. Those who exemplify an experiential relationship with God that transcends all philosophical speculation. And remember, even the skulls and skeletons of modern-day Hallowe’en festivities can be used as springboards or opportunities to share the truth and life that only Jesus affords humankind—now and throughout eternity.
See also, “What about purgatory?“.
**Note the preceding text is adapted from a new Revised and Updated version of The Complete Bible Answer Book that is forthcoming. When available we will update this page with corresponding information. Until then you can still purchase or receive for your partnering gift the current version by clicking here for purchase or here for partnering gift. ***