Reformation Day on Hallowe'en
Luther railed against the extravagences of the Pope, 'whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Crassus', and repudiated purgatory and indulgences, insisting that salvation is by faith in Christ alone: it was certainly not for sale, and the Pope of Rome had absolutely no authority to absolve buyers from anything they justly had coming to them. The protest, as we know, spread throughout Germany, and reached France, Italy and England. Thanks to the advent of the printing press, tens of thousands would go on to read On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian in Luther's own time.
And today we remember this.
Or perhaps not.
One might hope that the United Kingdom will commemorate the 500th anniversary of this momentous event in 2017 (if, indeed, the Kingdom is still united in five years time), but until then we're stuck with pumpkins, skeletons, witches and trick-or-treating. Hallowmas has been stripped of its Christian origins and the festival has returned to its Celtic pagan roots. And yet the collecting of 'soul cakes' and the ringing of bells for the departed in purgatory are as pointless as Tetzel's indulgences. One wonders what Luther would now make of it all.
The Christian response? Well, you could ignore it, like most Christians do All Saints' Day. You could tell the trick-or-treaters that salvation is to be found in Christ alone and they're going to hell if they continue to consort with the Devil and watch Harry Potter. Or you could participate in the cultural phenomenon, for a candle in a pumpkin is not an invocation to the demons of hell.
Father Gabriele Amorth, exorcist-in-chief at the Vatican, has said: "If English and American children like to dress up as witches and devils on one night of the year that is not a problem. If it is just a game, there is no harm in that."
One wonders if he holds the same generous view of those children who like to dress up as Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Foxe, Huss, Knox or His Grace to celebrate Reformation Day..