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Archive for the ‘Seasons’ Category

I have been housesitting for friends this week, so I have with me only a minimal shrine, some incense to burn, tap water to offer. I decided I would write some prayers for the day and share them here, as well as say them later, perhaps with an offering of hot dogs and beans (my celebratory national holiday dinner *g*)

Prayers for Independence Day

 

To Columbia

 

Great goddess of these western lands, Columbia,

We whose ancestors came here have not always lived well.

We did not honor the gods and spirits who already dwelt here.

We were often brutal and dishonest toward the people of these lands.

We often took what was not ours and used it for our own gain and used it up.

And yet we recognized you and gave you a name, albeit the name of an invader.

 

Come to us now, Dea Columbia,

not draped in stars and stripes or wearing liberty cap,

but crowned with tobacco leaves and buds of peyote,

dressed in fine leathers or hand-woven gown,

bearing sheaves of the golden maize, heaps of tomatoes,

all the foods these lands have given the world.

Teach us to belong here as those who are born here,

teach us to eat and to drink what we find here,

teach us to use well the mind-changing plants,

teach us to speak to this land’s gods and spirits.

Make peace between us and our gods of the old lands

and the ways of this new land whose spirit you are.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, Columbia!

 

To Liberty

 

Hymned by so many poets before me, goddess Liberty,

you lift your lamp still by the door and still summon those

who seek a better way of life. Gift between allies, your noble statue

embodies the best of what we call America.

 

Mother of Exiles, shine your light on our future.

Bring greater liberty to this land of the free.

Bring greater justice to this shrine of democracy.

Bring greater wealth to the poor’s huddled masses.

Bring illumination to our understanding.

On this Independence Day, hail to you, goddess Liberty!

 

To the Founding Fathers and Mothers

 

On this anniversary of Independence Day

I call on George Washington, first President

of our nation, commander in chief, general

of the Revolutionary War, and on his wife Martha

 

I call on John Adams, second President of this nation

on his wife Abigail and on their son John Quincy,

sixth President of our nation, on their daughter Nabby,

who died of breast cancer, and on their other children,

Susanna, Charles, and Thomas.

 

I call on Thomas Jefferson, composer and signer

of the Declaration of Independence,

third President of our nation,

and on his wife Martha and his mistress Sally

and on his children, both free and slave

 

I call on all the signers of our Declaration of Independence

and on their wives, their children, their slaves,

their unrecognized, unremembered helpers, supporters, enablers.

 

I call on our Presidents from James Madison to Abraham Lincoln,

on their wives, their children, their servants, their slaves.

 

I call on the generations of Native Americans who helped European settlers,

fought with them, made treaties with them, were made war against by them.

 

I call on the Founding Fathers, the forgotten Founding Mothers,

the Native Americans and enslaved Africans,

the immigrants from Ireland and Italy, Germany and the Ukraine,

Russia, China, and lands around the world, drawn by

the torch of Liberty held aloft over New York harbor.

 

Hear me, noble ancestors, as I pray to you for help.

Help us to live out the potentials of Jefferson’s words,

that all men are created equal, that all human beings are persons,

that all persons have equal rights before the law.

Help us to keep separate church and state,

never to let one dominate the other,

never to let them join hands and become one.

Help us to treasure and conserve the lands

that were clean and wild and revered by their people

when our ancestors came to these shores.

Help us to do no more damage to our land,

no more damage to the lands of other sovereign peoples,

no more damage to the poorest among us.

Let there be liberty and justice, prosperity and peace

for all Americans.

 

Honor to the ancestors of the United States of America!

Honor and blessing to them, and may their blessing be upon us.

 

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We observed the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord at my church this morning. We don’t observe many holy days that aren’t Sundays, outside of the biggies at Christmas and in Holy Week, but this feast conveniently fell on a Sunday this year. In his sermon, my rector remarked that when he was searching online for information about the feast, he found more posts from witches than from Christians.

In the old reckoning, before the twentieth century’s liturgical reforms, before the Gregorian calendar, this day was the end of the Christmas season and the beginning of spring. Once it was called the Purification of Our Lady, and the main focus was on the ritual purification required by the Mosaic Law for a woman who had given birth before she could be reintegrated into the community. The Law prescribed a withdrawal of forty days for the mother of a son, eighty for the mother of a daughter; hence, this feast made Christmastide, too, a season of forty days.

Despite the joyous nature of its festivals, Christmastide is often harder on me than Lent. I don’t deal well with winter. This year we’ve had unusually cold temperatures and unusually large amounts of snow, by Mid-Atlantic standards; my snow boots are starting to show some wear after sitting in the closet, pristine and pure, for several years. I long for longer days and temperatures above freezing, for a chance to wear the cute fleece jacket I bought in late autumn instead of my heavy black down-filled coat, for more light, more light.

All the Scriptures and songs of Christmastide are about light. The divine Light comes into the world, embodied in Jesus, and the natural light grows as the earth tilts and turns and we celebrate the growth of the Word made flesh. But not fast enough; not fast enough. Even now there’s a winter storm approaching my area, and if there are any snowdrops or crocuses out there, they may be covered over by morning.

Yet the shift in nature’s energies that occurs at this moment of the year, whether you call it Presentation, Purification, Candlemas, or Imbolc, always brings some relief to me, and perhaps to others who suffer from the loss of light for three months. Already there are signs that, as so often happens, my creative energies have been renewed, and they’re ready to push up from the darkness like sprouting bulbs, showing new and unexpected flowers. The orchid I’ve had for over five years has put out a stalk with buds for the first time since I’ve owned it. I think I, too, will be putting out some new things in the coming month.

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Last Sunday the celebration of the First Sunday of Advent at my church coincided, and dare I say clashed, with a decades-old tradition of celebrating Scottish heritage on the Sunday nearest the feast of St. Andrew on 30 November. There was a certain amount of cognitive dissonance in singing “Sleepers, Wake” and then later hearing the bagpipes play “Scotland the Brave”.

This morning I went to the 8:30 Communion in search of a quieter, more centered experience. A young couple arrived slightly late, with their little boy. I am terrible at guessing ages, but I would say he was no older than two, big enough to be dressed in a shirt and pants and little slippers, small enough to be kept in arms. He made a lot of noise during the service–a joyful noise, as it says in the psalms, burbling, babbling, and exuberant shouts, accompanied by cheerful smiles across the aisle at me and Kermit-like waving of the arms. Yet he did nothing to disturb the quietness I was seeking. All his noises were happy noises, sounds that celebrated life. He was not crying for attention, seeking relief for pain, crying and being ignored. I don’t think anyone wanted to complain of his presence.

Advent is a lot like that, generally. It is full of contradictions. You want quiet and you get a shouting baby, but there is quietness at the heart of his joy. You look for the Kingdom, and it is not here yet, but it is coming; it is near at hand; it might even be within you. We cannot bring in the Kingdom ourselves; we cannot put everything to rights, we cannot restore the good order of creation which we have helped to muddle and befoul. Yet we can and must prepare the way, levelling mountains, raising valleys, and making a highway for the One who can restore, recreate, and not merely repair this broken world.

I had the inspiration this evening to look online for a Deesis icon. I have been saving icons and holy images to my hard drive and pulling up a different one each day to contemplate while saying the Office. The Deesis is a very old style of icon, from the Byzantine era; it shows Christ as Ruler, holding a book, his hand raised in blessing, flanked by his Mother on one side and John the Baptist on the other, their hands raised in supplication.

DeesisBig

The Baptist and the Virgin Mother are the two great figures or characters of Advent, and they are very nearly opposites. The Baptist calls on us to repent; he points to the end of all things, the coming of the Lord in judgment, the need to renounce all that holds us back from God. The Virgin Mother is, in herself, a contradiction, a paradox, the untouched bearer of a mysterious new life, the carrier of a coming which will be in silence and humility rather than wrath and judgment. Like any pregnant woman, her very being is an affirmation that life goes forward and there is hope.

Today we had snow, unusual in December in these parts. With the icy rain that followed, the city may be closed down tomorrow, and I’ll be home. But the tulip magnolia outside my windows, growing in the walled garden across the alley, has already budded, as tulip magnolias do. All the snow of December, January, February, will not keep it from blooming in April; its buds are prepared to wait through the vicissitudes of winter. I will wait, too, and put on my boots if I have to walk to work.

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This year’s Advent message from Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church.

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  • I will not complain about Christmas decorations in public places.
  • I will not put up my decorations until I’m ready.
  • I will not complain about Christmas decorations in public places.
  • I will not listen to Christmas music at home until I’m ready.
  • I will not complain about Christmas decorations in public places.
  • I’m not even tempted to criticize people for how they phrase their good wishes for the season.
  • I will not complain about Christmas decorations in public places.
  • I reserve the right to scream if I hear the Theresa Brewer covers of any Christmas tunes, especially “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree”.
  • I will not complain about Christmas decorations in public places.

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ImageEvery year when this feast rolls around, I think about the fact that on the same day that the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of Christ, the revelation of divine glory through his human nature, his human body, my government dropped an atomic bomb on a city full of civilians. Human bodies were vaporized, their shadows burnt into the nearest wall. The bodies of the survivors and of their descendants were imprinted irrevocably by radiation.

I tell myself that Truman and his advisors did not know how bad it would be. They did not know how much damage they would do because this weapon had never been used before. And there was the very real possibility that more people, American and Japanese, military and civilian, would die if the U.S. armed forces had to fight their way into Japan by sea, air, and land, than would die if they used the bomb.

But still. Nothing could be further from the truth of the Transfiguration than the light of a nuclear explosion. Yet the two lights, the light of God’s humble glory and the light of humankind’s fear and pride and desperation, are inextricably linked together by history.

Image

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