Written in honor of all the Saints, our great cloud of witnesses that surround us and guide us under the banner of Jesus, our Risen Savior.
Τοιγαροῦν καὶ ἡμεῖς τοσοῦτον ἔχοντες περικείμενον ἡμῖν νέφος μαρτύρων, ὄγκον ἀποθέμενοι πάντα καὶ τὴν εὐπερίστατον ἁμαρτίαν, δι᾽ ὑπομονῆς τρέχωμεν τὸν προκείμενον ἡμῖν ἀγῶνα
The Levitical Colossian Connection
Ever since the God breathed words engraved within Leviticus were set
down, the people of God have celebrated feasts dedicated as holy to the Lord.
God told Moses that his festivals were ἁγίας, holy, meaning sacred and
pleasing to the Almighty. Throughout Ancient Judaism and the earliest
Christian era, various festivals were held to bring honor to Yahweh. The
people of God would recall that the Lord God was pleased with his people
honoring him in various manners, recalling the words spoken to Moses:
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: These are the appointed festivals of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations, my appointed festivals. (NRSV translation)
Friberg’s Greek Lexicon describes the Historical text’s usage of Festival as a celebration that ultimately gives honor to God. As such, we will find the consistent usage throughout the Bible of the particular word and its desire to give glory to Yahweh.
The solemnity of festivals was made all the more evident in its usage
throughout the Gospels. In Matthew 26:5 and Mark 14:2 strife is particularly
avoided so as to not cause trouble during a festival.
NAS Matthew 26:5 But they were saying, "Not during the festival, lest a riot occur among the people." (NAS rendering)
NAS Mark 14:2 for they were saying, "Not during the festival, lest there be a riot of the people." (Mk. 14:2 NAS)
Furthermore, the Bible seems to indicate that Christians were already
celebrating a variety of festivals around the time of Paul’s letter to the Church
of Colossae. In fact, Paul details very clearly that no one has a right to pass
condemnation across a believer in the faith in regards to what they eat or
drink nor in regards to how they celebrate festivals.
16 Therefore do not let anyone condemn you in matters of food and drink or of observing festivals, new moons, or sabbaths. 17 These are only a shadow of what is to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Paul notes that these festivals that are being observed clearly give honor to
Christ, our God. The “substance”, pointing towards the Lord, is what makes a
festival holy in the eyes of the Lord. The Early Church Fathers would follow
suit in interpreting Colossians 2 in unanimous fashion.
The Church Fathers:
Origen of Alexandria would interestingly enough connect Leviticus and
Colossians in terms of mentioning festivals of the Lord. In his Homilies on
Leviticus 7:4, Origen would call Paul’s teaching
“..the truest doctrine..”, noting that Paul was “bold” in handing down the
spiritually true teaching that no one could judge the
“..participation of the feast days…which are a shadow of the future.”
In Basil’s of Caesarea’s 16th Homily he says that pleasant Sabbaths are
“pleasant and holy” , but he also includes “festivals” in the same
conversation, quoting Colossians 2. He says that they must be gazed upon as
being part of God’s spiritual law.
In Eusebius’ Proof of the Gospel chapter 4, he calls festivals, from
Colossians 2, “holy days” and says they are “mystically true.”, all pointing to
Jesus the Christ. When Ambrose penned his “On the Death of His brother
Satyrus” (2:108) he says that festival days ultimately point towards the body
of Christ, the faithful.
In Augustine’s 196th letter, he would also defend feast days, saying that Paul
shows they “form the character of the faithful.”
The Bible and the Early Church Fathers, those that were taught and trained
by the Apostles of the Lord, were steadfast that holy days pointed to Jesus,
and one should not be judged in that regard. As we continue our examination,
we will see that festivals would become very common in the Early Church, so
much so that perhaps the incredible amount of feast days would be what led
to the origin of All Saints’ Day. In realizing that holy days, festivals, have
always been accepted within the true faith, it is important to recognize the
true Christian origins of Halloween, which ultimately was a “shadow” to All
Saints’ Day, the ancient festival of the Early Church.