On this, the “hallowed” eve of all Saints, we need to take a step back and take an honest look at the culture we live in. What do we really think of as “hallowed” today?
Consider our current American culture. Pornography is the highest-grossing industry in America, by far, eclipsing the gross revenues of all professional sports and major television networks. The highest-grossing movies amongst American teenagers over the past several years have been “slasher” horror films, followed by sex “comedies” at a close second. Music becomes more profane and suggestive. Video games become increasingly violent and graphic. Divorce rates climb. The gay marriage debate continues to grow in intensity. Well over forty-five million babies have been legally killed since 1973.
In the face of all this insanity stands the Roman Catholic Church. Right?
The Priesthood used to be revered … it still is by many. Since the scandal, though, many in the media and in modern culture have used the mistakes of the unhealthy few to condemn the humble and healthy many. Priests are suffering in many dioceses, being forced to continually prove themselves – to earn the respect of the masses – as if their vocation was their choice and not God’s.
Prayer used to be revered … now it is removed from schools. Scripture verses are removed from government buildings and landmarks. Courtroom witnesses used to mandatorily place their hand atop the Bible and swear an oath – no more. These actions are justified by invoking the Constitution, written with Christian values as its foundation and motivation, ironically. The very freedom millions offered their lives to protect is now being used to denounce the Author of Life (Acts 3:15).
Holy days used to be revered. Everyone knew the dates and no one dared miss Mass. Originally they were seen as opportunities to rejoice, to celebrate the great things that God had done (and continues to do) throughout salvation history. Sadly, they’re now often seen as archaic, mandatory Masses to which the masses are guilted into going. Special days, hallowed and set apart for good reason are now often seen through a lens of inconvenience and irrelevance. Irrelevance trumps reverence at every turn.
Take Halloween for example. Halloween is the eve of the Holy Ones (Hallow’s Eve) – the eve of the Saints (All Saints’ Day). To “hallow” means to be “set apart as holy” or to be “revered.” For that reason, it should be no shock that the night preceding the day has become so increasingly dark. What used to be a couple weeks of preparation has now turned into months of retail sales. Children’s costumes get bloodier. Adult’s costumes get racier. Apparently the less material you actually use, the more you can charge for it. Parents allow their kids to don bloody masks of movie killers, justifying it as “Halloween fun.”
Encouraging kids to learn about the saints? Oh, that’s seen as fanatical. I don’t say these things to condemn anything or anyone, only to offer a wider perspective that can get lost in the “holiday” lunacy rather than the holy day litany.
The question deserves to be asked, “What are we hallowing here, anyway?” What do we actually revere in this modern culture?
What is Reverence Anyway?
Reverence comes from the Latin “reverentia” meaning “to stand in awe of”; reverence goes well beyond one’s speech. Reverence has to do with our entire being, our posture inside and out. Our reverence for the holy Name of God, for instance, should be reflected not only in our speech but also in the heart that motivates the speech, the mind that processes it and the will that submits to it.
So, what do we (and by “we” I mean this modern culture) revere? Oh, so many things…
We revere fame. We revere fortune. We revere status. We revere the logo on the car and the brand of the jeans. We revere the designer of the shoes and the maker of the sunglasses. We revere the artist and the athlete, the moneyman and the musician.
We Lost the Sacred
We’ve lost our way. We’ve lost our reverence. It’s not that everything has to be sacred in this secular culture, it’s that some things ought remain sacred. Sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition demand our reverence. Sacred silence and sacred space(s) deserve our reverence. The Sacraments (literally “sacred oaths” or “sacred mysteries”) need to be revered again, in particular the sacraments of vocation: holy matrimony and holy orders. The human body needs to be revered as a sacred body (1 Corinthians 6:19), again, not merely the means to a pornographic end. The womb need be revered as a place of life again, not a tomb for the unborn. In short, the minute we stop revering the Creator, all that is made in the image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-17) of that Creator is ripe for irreverence.
We are God’s billboards on earth. What and Whom we choose to revere makes a statement within this culture. We pray “hallowed be Thy Name.” The more we hallow God, the more hallowed (holy) this culture will become. It begins with those who know God. It begins with us.