I know what the Lectionary says. The church year begins in Advent. The season of preparation is a great way to begin the new church year. But for the past few years, I’ve experienced the beginning of a new year on the night in between Reformation Day and All Saints Day.
For me, these two days represent the very best in new beginnings. For all of October, I watch the living creation wind down, preparing for its winter hibernation. The world seems to slow down and catch its breath after the exhilaration of summer. I feel like I do my best introspection and self-reflection during this time. And all the while, we crawl towards All-Hallows Eve.
Even as a kid, Halloween fascinated me. We all need a little legend in our lives. Halloween was even more poignant for me because it was the night before All Saints Day, which meant that we no longer had to be afraid of the dead. It was a day of celebration for the lives of our ancestors and the communion we share with them and all the saints. I have spent many All Saints Days remembering those who have died and finding solace and peace in those thoughts as I look forward to the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God.
My friend Pilgrim over at this top of speculation gave a good argument for why he does not celebrate Reformation Day. I agree with him when he says that the celebration of the Reformation too often becomes about how we are different from the Roman Catholic Church and how we finally “got it right.” What’s ironic about these sentiments is that the Augsburg Confession, the most important identifier of a Lutheran church, was written to show how the Evangelicals were in line with, not opposite, the Roman church.
Secondly, Lutherans have prided themselves on being a reforming tradition. How quickly, then, we have fallen into the typical, pridefully human stance that what we have is the “right” way. The Lutheran church has not always remembered that it is a church devoted to constant introspection, renewal, and revitalization. It is a part of our tradition we need to reclaim.
That is why I always celebrate Reformation Day and All Saints Day together, as a pair, as the beginning of a new year. The month of October, with its natural invitation to reflection and meditation, brings me into a state of mind open to the deeper meanings behind the Reformation. I wind down to Reformation Day, not up to it. I examine who I am, what my life has been, and seek the renewal that comes from dying every night to Christ and rising again in the morning a baptized child of God–I seek to reform into a new person, not to reassert the old.
And then, on November 1, I celebrate with the church those who have come before us, those who have once and for all been renewed and reformed. The whole of October winds down to this solemn, but not sad, day. Having reflected on where I’ve been and celebrated where I am going, I can step out into a new life and a new year. Happy Reformation Day, everyone–and a solemn All Saints.