Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 31 October 2019
As the penultimate month of the year, November for me is something like Thursday – so relaxed when people seem to slow down in anticipation of the coming end of the year or week. It acts like a cushion to prepare us for the “stress” of December or Friday. Or, a prelude to leaving, then living.
Cold winds from Siberia we call amihan intensify during this month while autumn is about to end in the western hemisphere. The climate contributes greatly to this laid-back feeling in November almost everywhere, maybe except Down Under where I haven’t been to.
Like autumn’s falling leaves, November is marked with three festivals associated with the dead to signal life and eternity.
On its first day, we celebrate All Saints’ Day in recognition of all the departed souls – including our beloved, of course! -now in heaven considered as “saints” aside from those canonized by the Church.
Day after tomorrow, November 2, we celebrate All Souls’ Day to pray for all those departed, especially our loved ones who are still awaiting entrance into heaven in Purgatory.
Then, on November 11, we celebrate St. Martin of Tours’ feast with a “Martinmas” in the old calendar of the Church after which Advent began for the Christmas countdown. Winter also starts in Europe and North America after the Martinmas immortalised in some poems and literature of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Incidentally, St. Martin of Tours (France) used to be a major saint in Europe because he is one of those first saints recognised by the Church as holy people who have died not as martyrs when persecution finally stopped and Christendom started to rise and “flex” her influence.
Today, November 11 is celebrated as “Remembrance Day” in Europe along with the Commonwealth nations of Britain and “Veterans Day” in the United States in honor of those who have died in the line of duty during the First World War that ended at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year” in 1918. Red poppies take the centerstage on this day to signify the blood offered by the fallen soldiers in that first world war, something very similar to the Christian thinker Tertullian’s assertion that “the blood of the martyrs are the seeds of the Church.”
So many deaths, but so many lives too!
And that is why we celebrate these feasts, whether in the Church or in our civil society.
This is the tragedy of our time when despite all the technological advances and affluence we now have, the more we have been saddled with fear and pains of death and dying.
Focus is more on death as a solution, as an end.
Or, as an entertainment like the pagans in ancient Rome’s Colesseum and of many benighted Christians today celebrating spooky Halloween that underscores the debunked dark side of death.
In the Old Testament, death was a curse to man’s sins but with Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, death has become a blessing because he has made it our passing too into eternal life.
No, there is no gap between this life and life-after. It is a continuum where death is just a prelude to eternity.
November is a wonderful reminder to us all of this truth we seem to have forgotten these days when all we see and even seek is darkness and death.
November is like a door opening us towards the end of the year that leads us to new year. The weather is so lovely, not so cold and not so hot, perfectly reminding of the beauty of life and reality of death that invites us to live fully and authentically.
This long weekend, I strongly recommend you read Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s second encyclical, Spe Salvi that speaks a lot about the beauty of this life and life-after. His reflections are simple yet so profound and so touching like the following.
“Man’s great, true hope which he holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God… Life in its true sense is not something we have exclusively in or from ourselves: it is a relationship. And life in its totality is a relationship with him who is the source of life. If we are in relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.Spe Salvi, number 27.
One of the beautiful movies I have seen while on vacation in November-December 2005 at the US East Coast was “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise who was asked by the boy Emperor of Japan at the end, “Tell me, how did my samurai die?” Tom Cruise replied, “I shall not tell you how your samurai died but how he lived!”
Live life, share life, enjoy life in God and with others!