Monday, November 3

In Memory

Happy All Saint's and All Soul's Day.
There's something particularly poignant to me about this season. I'm not big on the costumes and candy of Halloween, but I love the change of weather towards cold, the changing and falling of leaves, and how we remember our ancestors as Summer dies into Winter.
 Yesterday, November 1st, we celebrated Dia de Los Muertos in the sanctuary at Fleisher. The medieval saint statues were bedecked in marigolds and looked more lifelike than usual. The altar became a huge ofrenda.
 Aztec-style dancers did a ritual dance with drums beating and incense offered to the cardinal directions and Mother Earth in honor of our ancestors.
 It was breath-taking. In the face of death, we celebrate life vibrantly with color, flowers, dance, music, and food. It is life-affirming to be surrounded by community gathered in remembrance, in honor of ancestors.
This morning at the Philadelphia Cathedral, we also gathered to remember. The cloth I started two years ago was brought out and encircled those present while we prayed the Litany of the Dead. It is not long enough for our growing community, so I will be adding more before next year.

In speaking with my family about these two events, it made me think about the blur between culture and religion. Did we attend a religious event or a cultural event last night? this morning? Does it matter? In modern society we are sorely lacking in ritual and cultural traditions. They become overpowered by commercial purposes and consumerism. So striving to continue authentic ritual and cultural practices that connect us as community is worth it. Sharing with and supporting a cultural practice that does not reflect my personal ethnic background does not detract from my sense of self, but enriches my understanding of humanity. We honor our ancestors in different ways but at the root is that we are honoring our ancestors. If we seek the commonalities across cultures and religions we will recognize ourselves in each other. To me, this is the way toward peace.

May the souls of the departed rest in peace.