Editor’s Corner: Comfortable days

Amy Forbus

Amy Forbus

Cooler, more comfortable weather has begun to approach here in Arkansas. We’re entering the season when I find the most joy in being outdoors. The crisp morning air signals autumn’s arrival, even if the afternoons still top out above 80 degrees.

This time of year seems to begin a swift downhill roll toward Christmas, but you’ll find me digging my heels into the leaf-covered mud at every opportunity. Autumn may feel brief in the South, but it is its own legitimate season worth savoring. The trees with leaves that disappear each year are part of the same gift from God as the evergreens we decorate each winter.

The next holiday on the calendar is Halloween, which usually means a fair amount of yard decorations at our house. Then Thanksgiving arrives in practically no time at all. Except if you think of it that way, you’ve missed a truly holy day: All Saints’ Day, the whole reason Halloween (“All Hallows’ Eve”) even exists.

I remember being relieved that my dad was OK with skipping All Saints’ Sunday the year my mother died. I don’t think either of us was ready to hear her name read aloud, with the tolling of a handbell that she very well might have rung herself in years past. The intensity of that grief has faded, and my dad and many other loved ones now rest with the communion of saints—those in “all the company of heaven” whose unending hymn we join each time we speak the Communion liturgy. All Saints’ Day now claims a more valued place in my life.

John Wesley’s journal entries reflect a fondness for All Saints’ Day. He referred to it as “a festival I truly love” in 1767, and on Nov. 1, 1788, he wrote, “I always find this a comfortable day.”

“Comfortable.” His word choice sent me to my Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, suspecting that the word as we use it may have evolved from his 18th-century context. Sure enough, I discovered that in Wesley’s young adult years, “comfortable” might more readily mean “giving mental or spiritual delight,” or “strengthening (morally, spiritually or physically); sustaining; encouraging; reassuring.”

Taken with these meanings, then, yes, I do find All Saints’ Day comfortable. It delights and strengthens me with assurance that a cloud of witnesses surrounds us; it sustains me by giving me a glimpse of heaven; and remembering the work and lives of those who have gone before us encourages and reassures me. As we approach another remembrance of the saints in the month ahead, I hope it does the same for you.

To reach me, send an email to aforbus@arumc.org.