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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
As the Winter Solstice approaches in the north, we notice the changes: the days of light are shorter, the darkness is longer, the weather is cold, the trees are bare, and snow is often on the ground. John Matthews, who has lectured widely on Celtic and Arthurian traditions, has written this lyrical passage about Winter Solstice:
"The Solstice is a time of quietude, of firelight, and dreaming, when seeds germinate in the cold earth, and the cold notes of church bells mingle with the chimes of icicles. Rivers are stilled and the land lies waiting beneath a coverlet of snow. We watch the cold sunlight and the bright stars, maybe go for walks in the quiet land. . . . All around us the season seems to reach a standstill — a point of repose."
Here are a few activities and spiritual practices to do in celebration of Winter Solstice.
This is an abbreviated excerpt of "A Celebration of Winter Solstice" from The Circle of Life by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr.
"There is a tendency to want to hurry from autumn to spring, to avoid the long dark days that winter brings. Many people do not like constant days bereft of light and months filled with colder temperatures. They struggle with the bleakness of land and the emptiness of trees. Their eyes and hearts seek color. Their spirits tire of tasting the endless gray skies. There is great rejoicing in the thought that light and warmth will soon be filling more and more of each new day.
"But winter darkness has a positive side to it. As we gather to celebrate the first turn from winter to spring, we are invited to recognize and honor the beauty in the often unwanted season of winter. Let us invite our hearts to be glad for the courage winter proclaims. Let us be grateful for the wisdom winter brings in teaching us about the need for withdrawal as an essential part of renewal. Let us also encourage our spirits as Earth prepares to come forth from this time of withdrawal into a season filled with light.
"The winter solstice celebrates the return of hope to our land as our planet experiences the first slow turn toward greater daylight. Soon we will welcome the return of the sun and the coming of springtime. As we do so, let us remember and embrace the positive, enriching aspects of winter's darkness. Pause now to sit in silence in the darkness of this space. Let this space be a safe enclosure of creative gestation for you."
Give thanks for the darkness which is the yin to the yang of light. Think of how soothing darkness is when you are exhausted and want to take nap. Recall how irritated you were in a hotel or motel where you could not block out the bright lights from outside when you wanted to sleep.
"Hello darkness, my old friend, I've come to talk with you again," Simon and Garfunkel sang in a popular song years ago. Make a special effort today to greet darkness and share some of the feelings that arise in you when you think about darkness.
Ponder the darkness as a spur to reverencing the mysteriousness of God. What place have you made for the darkness of the divine as fertile and transformative in your spiritual path?
Read this poem aloud. It is by William John Fitzgerald from his book Blessings for the Fast Paced and Cyberspaced.
Black Can Be Beautiful
O God, black can be beautiful!
Here is a meditative poem by Joyce Rupp "Winter's Cloak" from The Circle of Life which she co-wrote with Macrina Wiederkehr.
This year I do not want
End this special once-a-year-day with this prayer by Edward Hays from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.
A Winter Solstice Prayer
The dark shadow of space leans over us. . . . .
• Practicing Spirituality in Winter: a month's worth of practices plus two galleries.