“Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…meditate on these things…and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8,9)
“Hallow” is an ancient form of “holy,” and “een-even” means “eve,” thus Halloween is the eve of all saints. As celebrated in America, it recalls an ancient pagan religion brought from England, having originated from the Celtic end-of-harvest festival of the dead. Imagine explaining it to a visitor from another land who never heard of it.
Let us agree that it can be fun trick-or-treating under proper supervision, children enjoy dressing in costume, and they like taking part in what all others are doing. They are affected by social customs, especially when very young. That in itself is positive. However, I find it lacking in the attributes that St. Paul lays out for Christians as he described what those in Christ will enjoy. “Whatever things are true” excludes the goblins, witches, vampires and all the spooky fantasies that characterize the Halloween creatures. I find it odd that our society even turns the actual bishop of what is now a seaport of Turkey, the holy Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker, into a figure of fantasy so incredible that even the little children find it hard to believe in him. In Christ, he lives and hears our prayers along with all the saints in God’s Kingdom.
“Whatever things are noble.” We know and teach our children that they are of a royal priesthood, raised to honour themselves with self-respect and dignity. How does it help to dress them in grotesque costumes and frighten others or to be scared and humiliated? To be dignified, decent, and polite is the attribute of one made in the image of God. We realize there are examples of bullying, brutality, mocking and disgraceful behaviour in our schools and neighbourhoods, but that cannot be acceptable behaviour for Orthodox Christian young people.
“Whatever things are pure.” What must parents and our church people do to protect and preserve the innocence of our children? They are baptized into a holiness that is spiritually protected by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit for as long as they choose to keep themselves pure and free from all that is wrong, wicked, wild and worthless. Temptations will come and it is difficult, but not impossible, to preserve them from surrendering to the forces of iniquity.
“Whatever things are lovely.” Here I take exception to the sheer macabre grotesque presentation of ugliness in so many variations, and I ask once again—what is the purpose of it all? Perhaps it may be justified as a way to encourage pity on all creatures that are disfigured, unattractive and repulsive. Using the Divine Liturgy admonition to “let us love one another,” regardless of our beauty or lack of loveliness, nevertheless, are we not in danger of losing the standard of splendour, grace, and excellence? Beyond mere cosmetics, what is a beautiful soul, and where are we to set forth an arena where spiritual attractiveness is welcome? I anguish over this significant matter, because our society is so filled with banality, selfishness, and crass humiliation of those who would sweeten our world with divine attributes that our Lord yearns for us to display. The mocker, the cheater, the liar, the fraud—all seem to get ahead in a society of sharp elbows who shove away the gentle, meek and kind.
“Meditate on these things,” the holy apostle advises. Think about them, not just as a vague ideal, but consider how to instill such virtues into our children, their families, and our church. “And the God of peace will be with you.” The supreme comfort and affirmation of all, which is expressed in the gracious attributes of those in Christ, is the peace of God that passes all understanding, the very peace that is yours because you are His.