It is the eve of All Saints in the Catholic church or, in popular parlance, Halloween. The original Celtic feast of Samhain was a time to remember the dead, give thanks for the growing season, and to prepare for the long season of darkness. The pagan feast was eventually taken over by Christianity. For Catholics, this is a time to remember and give thanks for the lives of those who have died – all of the saints, the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. We believe that the dead are not far from us and that they experience fully the joy that we can only experience in part now.
This time of year makes me think about transitions. Transitions are potent times because endings always contain the seeds of new beginnings. What was makes way for what will be. The seasonal movement towards a time of darkness means that things can slow down a bit now that the long summer days have passed. Darkness can leave time for reflection and medition on the past and planning for the future. Thoughts have time to germinate and develop before being brought out into the light. Experiences of the past can be pondered and decisions can be made about what can happen next.
A difficult step for victims of domestic violence is admitting to oneself and/or telling others that one’s relationship or marriage is violent. Disclosure implies change. The transition from the dream of a happy family life to the reality of domestic violence is depicted in the Stained Glass Story of Abuse. In the aftermath of violence, the loss of the relationship can result in loneliness, doubt, and times of darkness. It is during these times that survivors and their families need professional and personal support so that they can sort out their experiences and renegotiate their understanding of reality and of their faith. Survivors needs a listening ear and a shoulder to cry on but they also need time to just be in the darkness. Light will return, but not before the slow process of healing is allowed to take place.
It is difficult for all of us to spend time, feeling alone in the darkness. It is difficult to stand by those for whom the light does not shine but that’s the most important time for Christians to reach out to victims and their families. We can do so because we believe that the light will return. Darkness is a necessary but temporary transition in the journey towards wholeness.
Cathy Holtmann, October 31, 2017