"Kissed by the Light"
-At the Desert Retreat House -
As people from all around the world go to sleep tonight, the world may indeed seem like a pretty bleak place. Tonight is the longest night of the year – the beginning of the winter season in the Western hemisphere, and in some sense this year it really it feels as if winter has arrived in this world. Somehow there seems to be more darkness than light not only in the skies but in the lives of many of us in this time of terror and mass shootings, war, revenge and violence.
And then, in this night of darkest dark as we are all fast asleep, something cosmic will be happening. The planets and stars will shift and the sun will begin its return to rule over the skies, and the daylight hours will now be longer than the hours of night.
Winter does not signal the beginning of the darkness but rather a return of the light.
I have always found it interesting that all people of every race, religion, tribe and culture throughout history have always celebrated the Winter Solstice with some type of festival of light - the prehistoric rituals at Stonehenge, the various “Light Festivals” of ancient Persian, Asian, Greek and Roman cultures, the Hebrew feast of Hanukkah, the festival of Kwanza, and yes of course “Christmas. There seems to be something deeply inherent in our human condition that calls us to gather together with other human beings to celebrate the cosmic happening of the planetary shift on the Winter Solstice.
Some anthropologists have suggested that people gather for Solstice festivals as a protection against the darkness of the darkest night of the year - I have another take on it. I think humans gather to celebrate the Solstice not to hide from the darkness of winter but to celebrate the victory of the light.
John Muir once said
The sun shines not on us but in us
thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and every cell.
Somehow on this darkest of nights a spark of newly kindled sunlight seems to take root in the human spirit, it thrills, tingles and vibrates every fiber and every cell; and so people gather together and proclaim that, at the core life is full of hope and while darkness and hatred will always exist, light and Love will ultimately persevere.
I am reminded of a line from a poem by W.H. Auden:
Defenseless under the night
our world in stupor lies;
Yet dotted everywhere
ironic points of light
flash out wherever the Just
exchange their messages.
As winter begins on the darkest night of the year people across the globe shrink with weakness in fear and terror but a Power abides among us in it all, the power of Love abides and will not let us go. All over the world the Just exchange their messages and ironic points of light flash out as people act with kindness and compassion, as reconciliation happens, as injuries are forgiven and as people of goodwill all have the final say.
As the world sleeps tonight a spark of new sunlight is lit.
The ancient Celts offered one another a beautiful Solstice Blessing - I pray this blessing on us all:
May all your winter places be kissed by light!