Halloween: The Protestant Jubilee

Multiple Authors

The Walpurgis Night or the most important witches’ night occurs on Halloween before All Saints’ Day. Accordingly, during this magical night, warlocks and witches performing their rituals will be granted by the Devil their hearts’ desires. It was also the eve of the feast when all Catholics get ready to honor all their friends in heaven. It was October 31, 1517 when according to Philip Melanchthon, Martin Luther, a priest of the Catholic Church nailed his 95 theses on the door of the All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Electorate of Savoy of the Holy Roman Empire. This event as disputed by protestant scholars couldn’t possibly be known to Melanchthon as he only transferred to Wittenberg a year later. This makes us ask the question, is it impossible to know something of the recent past if one isn’t a resident of the place.

However, Fr. Martin Luther was able to submit to Albert of Brandenberg, Archbishop of Mainz the same 95 Theses on the same date. Of the number, the most notable was Thesis number 86 which asked “Why does the Pope, whose wealth today is greater than that of Crassus (mythically, the wealthiest of all wealthy men) build the Basilica of St. Peter with the money belonging to the poor rather than his own money?” It was definitely a blunder when Johann Tetzel, the Pope’s agent overdid his “sale” of indulgences for even Frederick III, Elector of Saxony was against indulgences being sold as they are in competition to the collection of relics he was espousing with some funds.

The real hassle of having nailed the 95 theses on or before Halloween is the fact that people are really flocking to the church in Wittenberg to see the relics which belonged to Frederick the Wise who later became Martin Luther’s protector since he as a just ruler, protects all of his subjects aside from attending mass. It would therefore seem that it was a deliberate plan of grandstanding his ideas before the people. If Luther was only after reforms, he should have chosen to present his doubts to his superiors for a start. But no, Luther was ready for those which he would nail on the church doors and the manuscript for the Archbishop, too.

But it was propitious time for the Devil to bring havoc to the Church too, because the one who was Pope at that time was Leo X who was a middle-aged Medici when he ascended the throne. With his pompous character he was not really interested in spiritual matters but more on mundane things like building beautiful and ornate buildings as a legacy of his pontificate. As a Medici, he looked at his papacy as a temporal time to rule which would necessitate a worldly legacy. He was therefore, not as indulgent in the defense of the real meaning of indulgences as Fr. Cajetan who participated in the Augsburg and tried to explain the Church’s true vision of the same even before the obstinate princes who have found new means to keep money for themselves and indulge in more worldly affairs without the Church’s intervention.

As Luther found it profitable to make use of Halloween as timely for his 95 Theses so did the modern protestant thinkers who started the Reformation Day jubilee to commemorate Luther’s act borrowing the Catholic Church’s jubilee celebrations but citing only the Jewish jubilees as their source. For the Catholic Church’s part, in the context of Vatican II ecumenism, a representative from Vatican would attend in the celebrations. Luther taught that Christ is really present during the mass but there is no transubstantiation happening and therefore because the mass is just a banquet and not a sacrifice, no special priesthood is necessary. All are equal as worshippers and participants in the banquet of the Lord. Of course, the Lutherans and the Calvinists as well as other protestant denominations like these jubilee celebrations but we wonder what a Vatican representative would be doing there especially if one is a priest.

Most of the Lutheran apologists maintain that Martin Luther did not want to start a new church or a schism. They say he was just forced because he was being forced to recant. Well, that is easy to say because under the circumstances, he asked for “his day in court” so that he could make his famous “Here, I stand “speech. But he definitely enjoyed the following and the protection offered him by the princes. He was ready, he didn’t want to be silenced like Jan Hus, the Czech reformer and John Wycliffe, the “morning star of reformation” as he was called, as he thought both priests were and used the assembly fully to his advantage making sure also that his writings are publicized.

In the Philippines, we continue to become westernized and even the Catholics continue to imbibe protestant culture which ridicule things about spirits as simply superstitious things. This is why they allow their dress to dress up as witches, elves and fairies. Now, the new trends come in such zombies and actual demons. There are no limits especially if it’s an adult costume party where the parties want to scare each other and enjoy depravity. I am glad that some of our priests are speaking up against these in their homilies because if we allow the worst traditions to take over our good traditions we are simply giving in to the whims of the devil. How do we expect our children to be free from these malign spirits when we allow our children to emulate them? Even the Will-o-wisp had been commercialized in our markets as we see many parents buying the plastic counterparts for the children to place their candies and other treats within. These are not necessarily good for children because they refer to the jack o’lantern or the ignis fatuus. These actually refer to St. Elmo’s fire or spirit globes which mislead people in their travels so that they can be distressed. St. Elmo is a misnomer because originally St. Thelmo or Elmo is the saint called upon when these spirits appear.

Nowadays when the holy parts are disintegrating during Halloween; when the saints are being set aside and people would rather don demonic and monster costumes to trick and treat the children; we find the protestant jubilee sending a different eery message. Someone has indeed found a way of bringing havoc into the church and the servants of God within the church are participating again in feeding mortality as in the Diet of Worms.

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