Articles

HALLOWEEN

- Saint Nicholai Velimirovic

As Orthodox Christians we must carefully examine every aspect of our

involvement in the world, its activities, holidays and festivals, to be certain

whether or not these involvements are compatible with our Holy Orthodox

Faith.

For a while now everything in the outside world is reminding us that

Halloween is near: at school our children are busy painting pumpkins,

cutting and pasting bats, ghosts and witches and planning the ideal

costume in which to go trick-or-treating. Most of our schools, local

community organizations and entertainment on television, radio and press

will share in and capitalize upon the festival of Halloween. Many of us will

participate in this festival by going to costume parties, or by taking our

children trick-or-treating in our neighborhood after dark on October 31st.

Most of us will take part in the Halloween festivities believing that it has no

deeper meaning than fun and excitement for the children.

Most of us do not know the historical background of the festival of

Halloween and its customs. The feast of Halloween began in pre-Christian

times among the Celtic peoples of Britain, Ireland and Northern France.

These pagan peoples believed that physical life was born from death.

Therefore, they celebrated the beginning of the “new year” in the fall, on

the eve of October 31st and into the day of November 1st, when, as they

believed the season of cold, darkness, decay and death began. Instructed by

their priests, the Druids, the people extinguished all hearth fires and lights

and darkness prevailed. According to pagan Celtic tradition, the souls of

the dead had entered into the world of darkness, decay and death and

made total communion with Samhain, the Lord of death, who could be

appeased and cajoled by burnt offerings to allow the souls of the dead to

return home for a festal visit on this day. The belief led to the ritual practice

of wandering about in the dark dressed in costumes indicating witches,

hobgoblins, fairies and demons. The living entered into fellowship and

communion with the dead by this ritual act of imitation, through costume

and the wandering about in the darkness. They also believed that the souls

of the dead bore the affliction of great hunger on this festal visit. This belief

brought about the practice of begging as another ritual imitation of the

activities of the souls of the dead on their festal visit. The implication was

that any souls of the dead and their imitators who are not appeased with

“treats”, i.e. offerings, will provoke the wrath of Samhain, whose angels and

servants could retaliate through a system of “tricks”, or curses.

In the strictly Orthodox early Celtic Church, the Holy Fathers tried to

counteract this pagan new year festival by establishing the feast of All

Saints on that same day (in the East, this feast is celebrated on another day).

The night before the feast (on “All Hallows Eve”), a vigil service was held

and a morning celebration of the Eucharist. This custom created the term

Halloween. But the remaining pagan and therefore anti-Christian people

reacted to the Church’s attempt to supplant their festival by increased

fervor on this evening, so that the night before the Christian feast of All

Saints became a night of sorcery, witchcraft and other occult practices,

many of which involved desecration and mockery of Christian practices

and beliefs. Costumes of skeletons, for example, developed as a mockery of

the Church’s reverence for holy relics. Holy things were stolen and used in

sacrilegious rituals. The practice of begging became a system of persecution

of Christians who refused to take part in these festivities. And so the

Church’s attempt to counteract this unholy festival failed.

This is just a brief explanation of the history and meaning of the festival

of Halloween. It is clear that we, as Orthodox Christians, cannot participate

in this event at any level (even if we only label it as “fun”), and that our

involvement in it is an idolatrous betrayal of our God and our Holy Faith.

For if we imitate the dead by dressing up or wandering about in the dark,

or by begging with them, then we have willfully sought fellowship with the

dead, whose Lord is not a Celtic Samhain, but satan, the evil one, who

stands against God. Further, if we submit to the dialogue of “trick or treat,”

our offering does not go to innocent children, but rather to satan himself.

Let us remember our ancestors, the Holy Christian Martyrs of the early

Church, as well as our Serbian New Martyrs, who refused, despite painful

penalties and horrendous persecution, to worship, venerate or pay

obeisance in any way to idols who are angels of satan. The foundation of

our Holy Church is built upon their very blood.

In today’s world of spiritual apathy and listlessness, which are the roots

of atheism and turning away from God, one is urged to disregard the

spiritual roots and origins of secular practices when their outward forms

seem ordinary, entertaining and harmless. The dogma of atheism underlies

many of these practices, denying the existence of both God and satan. Our

Holy Church, through Jesus Christ, teaches that God alone stands in

judgment over everything we do and believe and that our actions are either

for God or against God. No one can serve two masters. Therefore, let us not,

as the pagan Celts did, put out our hearth fires and wander about in the

dark imitating dead souls. Let us light vigil lamps in front of our Slava

icons, and together with our families, ask God to grant us faith and courage

to preserve as Orthodox Christians in these very difficult times, and to

deliver us from the evil one.

 

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UNSUITABLE?  Some Parents Upset by Adult Themes on ABC Family Channel

 

By Meg James and Dawn C. Chmielewski    LOS ANGELES TIMES

The TV series The Secret Life of the American Teenager opens with a 15-year-old girl coming home from band practice, reaching into her French horn case and pulling out a home pregnancy test. Her horrified look confirms the results.

No less startled are some parents whose children have watched the ABC Family cable program that revolves around the sex lives of high-school students. The titillating themes, in their view, are out of place on a channel with the word "family" in its name -- especially given the chaste image of its owner, Walt Disney Co.

But Secret Life has become ABC Family's biggest hit and one of the most popular shows on cable, drawing an average of 3.8 million viewers an episode. With depictions of teens rolling out of bed, a father peppering his daughters with questions about their sex lives at the dinner table and a troubled boy revealing that he was molested by his father, Secret Life represents a coming of age for a channel founded by evangelist Pat Robertson to spread the Gospel.

Welcome to Disney's new take on the American family.

With such shows as Greek, set in the belly-shots-and-wet-T-shirts world of college fraternities and sororities, and Lincoln Heights, a drama about growing up fast in a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood, Disney says it has reshaped ABC Family into a channel more in sync with the realities and anxieties facing many American families and teenagers.

The programming ethos will take another twist in March, when ABC Family introduces Sophie, a comedy series about a young woman who has everything she wants, including a loving boyfriend and a baby on the way. That is, until her loving boyfriend dumps her.

ABC Family's strategy casts a new light on the traditional Disney brand, which historically has mined such tales of youthful innocence as The Little Mermaid and The Parent Trap to win over generations of viewers. The approach has paid off. ABC Family's ad revenue and ratings have been rising, making 2008 its best year.

Disney's quest for authenticity, however, has sparked debate about what constitutes "family programming" and how far the most influential family-entertainment company can push boundaries.

Disney executives have wrestled for years to find the right formula that is faithful to its "family" name but also appeals to younger viewers who have outgrown the perky adolescent worlds depicted in standard teen-targeted shows such as Hannah Montana and Wizards of Waverly Place.

An internal ABC Family study that surveyed the attitudes of so-called Millennials -- viewers ages 12 to 30 -- found that they craved strong relationships with their families and friends. Those results partly influenced the decision by the channel's management team to recast the cable network as "a new kind of family."

"We set out to make the modern family in all its passion and dysfunction, and reclaim that word for what it really is for our audience," ABC Family President Paul Lee said.

Although ABC Family targets the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, one-third of Secret Life viewers are 12 to 17. The programming makeover has left some parents worried that ABC Family is sending younger viewers mixed messages about healthy behavior -- and inadvertently encouraging teen sex and underage drinking.

"I thought it was going to be more like Disney Channel, a little more grown-up but less provocative," said Mary Alden, a Los Angeles-area mother of 14-year-old twins. She became alarmed when she heard characters in Secret Life discussing whether one of them should end her pregnancy. "I didn't think that would be on a Disney channel," she said.

Michele MacNeal, a mother of three who heads a local branch of the watchdog group Parents Television Council, agreed. "It's kind of a misnomer to call ABC Family a family channel," she said. "When you call something ‘family,' it gives the impression that it's safe for all members of the family, even young children."

Originally started as part of Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, the channel still airs The 700 Club, a Christian-perspective news and talk show. Renamed "The Family Channel" 10 years later, the name struck a chord in the "family values" political campaigns of the 1980s.

In 2001, former Disney Chief Executive Michael Eisner agreed to pay $5.3 billion for the channel. Anne Sweeney, who had been running the Disney Channel, was put in charge of ABC Family in 2003. Her first priority was to differentiate the channel's programming so that ABC Family and Disney Channel each had a defined audience and didn't poach the other's viewers.

And they were bringing to Him also the infants, in order that He may be touching them; but after the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Himself and said, Let alone the little children to come to Me, and cease hindering them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Verily I say to you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child in no wise shall enter into it. The Gospel According to St. Luke 18:15 17

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