Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: The Holiday Season

When traditions meet transitions…

For most of my life, my Holiday Season was centered around traditions that originated in the Anglican community. We celebrated Advent, then Christmas, and finally Epiphany. For forty years, beginning when I was 7 years old, I sang in an Episcopal Church choir and spent a good portion of my Christmas break in rehearsal and in church. The birth of Jesus was the reason for the season, and I never told my children there was a Santa Claus. The first gift they unwrapped was always the wooden Christ figure for the creche, in a golden box marked “Unto Us”. These traditions were rich, comforting, and firm. I think they provided many benefits to my four young children. As the children grew, our family made Christmas about broader values. We supported needy families, donated to organizations that contributed to world causes, and gave gifts that were homemade or from sustainable sources. As my children became young adults, we approached our holiday traditions with hard questions about life and meaning and community. What is truly holy and valuable to us? How do we celebrate the divine spark in all of life? Perhaps the most poignant question became “What is our family now that Dad has died?” Transitions are the hallmark of growth. Things that are growing change; living things evolve. There are Universal transitions that are holy. December 21 is the Winter Solstice, when the Earth is furthest from the Sun and daylight is at its ebb. This year, Saturn and Jupiter will align on that day. And three of my children will be living in Oregon with me. The list of transitions our family has braved over the last year is weighty. It includes several moves, relationship changes, and my mother’s death. In the midst of all these changes, we remember and celebrate the thing that makes a Holy Season: the invitation to Love and the recognition of divine presence in every living thing.

I’m sure that for many people around the world, this will be a Holiday Season that seems very unusual, perhaps quite unsettling. I wish us all the Peace of knowing that transition and change is intrinsic to Life. May we reach out in holy Love and celebrate the divine presence in all living things, expressing our gratitude and committing to doing good.

Thank you, Ann-Christine, for hosting this week’s challenge

Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light!

“…Propelled into the furthest arc, forsaken by the sun…” (from a poem I wrote, published in Living Church magazine)  What do we do in the Northern Hemisphere when we feel bereft of light and warmth?  We make HOLIDAY!  An excuse to gather together and eat and light candles, replenishing the light and warmth we feel we are lacking.  Yesterday was American Thanksgiving, so I hosted a dinner for Steve and his mother and aunt and sister and brother-in-law.  We love our home and spend far too little time in it lately.  We have been neglecting our home business (Scholar & Poet Books) for some reliable capital gains in the form of outside employment and losing touch with our domesticity.  Thanksgiving was a good time to settle in to cleaning and cooking and re-stacking books and music.  Puttering around the house while listening to good music is a nesting paradise. 

And It Was Good.  Good Will yielded some great finds in table decorations.  The turkey turned out moist and delicious.  Everyone brought side dishes to contribute.  We even had a family political argument!  (What holiday is complete without one?)  I really enjoyed serving Steve & his family out of the love and joy I feel in my heart…not out of obligation or duty.  The best part was just remembering why we are working so hard…so that we can get back to living out the life that we want to embody: slower-paced, inner-directed, aware & appreciative.  

So…..light.  Candles on the table, ready to dispel the darkness when the sun sets.  Sunlight streaming through the south window, illuminating the sideboard, laden with olives and nuts and good, stinky cheese.  And sherry & gin.  The darkness will not overwhelm us!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Winter Holy Days

The world did not end yesterday. We are in a new cycle, heading closer to the Sun once more.

In years past, I would have spent this day at an Episcopal church, practicing with the choir, ushering my children through the Christmas pageant, greeting friends, and sneaking private moments in the candlelit darkness whispering devotions to Jesus and His Father. I would have sent more than a hundred letters through the mail to people far and wide with Scriptural messages and personal anecdotes illustrating the great salvific actions of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of the world. I would have asked for and promised prayers for numerous specific ailments and misfortunes. I would have spoken and written my heartfelt greetings using words like “blessings”, “gifts”, “faith”, “Emmanuel” and “Savior”.

 This year is different.

 I have no tree; I have no gifts wrapped and waiting; I have not sung a hymn or carol; I have no creche with empty manger awaiting the figure of a baby. I am the same person, though, with the same heart and breath and life blood. I use a different language now to try to express my deepest hope for peace and love to rule my life and the lives of those with whom I share this planet. I no longer profess to know a single Truth; I no longer presume to belong to a select portion of humanity; I no longer pretend that the concepts in my brain adequately reflect very much at all of reality.

 The posture I hope to adopt is openness. To face the world, the people in it, the marvel of change and mystery beyond my control, without hiding behind a mask or label or system, is a severe challenge. Had I not already buried a husband, fledged a flock of four, sold a home I had for 20 years, and left employment, I might not believe that I could live without clinging to conventional structure. I test my ability to be flexible, graceful, alive and aware every day. I hope to learn. I hope to grow. I hope to love the world (and myself) more genuinely as I do. This is my holy quest, and every day is a holiday. I celebrate the mingling of material and spirit, the incarnation of life in the substances of Earth. I will eat and drink and hug the bodies of people I love with festive joy as before – but differently.

 I include the entire Universe in this celebration. Yes, this means you! Peace to you all. Love, joy, humility and grace be with us all together….scillagrace.

front porch view