Thursday, December 24, 2009
In a little bit we will be leaving to go to the Midnight Communion Service at our church this Christmas Eve...
I know all the discussions about Pagan traditions and Christmas Traditions, and how one stole from the other, or how things have become hopelessly secularized. There are Christians who go so far as to refuse to celebrate Christmas because they consider it a pagan holiday, and Pagans who rage over the fact that the Christian church appropriated and then destroyed their traditions.
Christmas is a time of memory - everybody's are a bit different, somethings are the same across the board. Some people have wonderful Christmas memories - others have bitter ones. It can be a beautiful time of year, it can also be a hard one...there are those who wallow in materialism and that's all that it means to them, and those that go hungry and cold while others eat. The world presents us with unattainable goals in the form of perfection and family and presents - and all too many have broken homes and families divided. How do Christmas traditions speak to us...how can they help us? How do we let it in to touch us?
Traditions and ceremonies and ritual all accomplish one thing - they bypass the conscious rational mind and speak to our souls, our inner selves, our subconscious. It becomes a way to connect with each other, or with Deity,or with life, whether you are Pagan, Christian, or even Atheist. Rituals are important and necessary and the most hardened Iconoclast all unknowing will have rituals in their life, despite their resistance to the concept.
One Christmas decades ago, I had the darkest, most bitter December I had ever had. I had no connection to family, or Deity or light or hope, despite being with my family and my church. And yet, paralyzed and emotionally destroyed, I went with my family to the Midnight Communion at the church...
And at midnight, when the lights went down and hundreds of candles slowly, one by one - light to light - multiplied and drove back the Darkness, my heart of broken stone loosened and became flesh again, believed again, hoped again, beat again, as we one by one increased the light in the world physically and symbolically. It wasn't a "revival of my heart" in a religious sense...it was much more primal and primeval than that. It was simple light, warmth and fire, overtaking the darkness that had became a deep metaphor for my inner darkness. And an older Light than Christmas broke over me in that moment - Sun Return. Life. Continuation. I had miles and years to go to heal from that December....but perhaps, that I was able to become whole again, began in that moment and in that ritual.
So there is something deeper at work in the concept of ritual than the surface of these things and the names of these things. Something older...something that may be as personal as a Deity that connects with us, or as impersonal as the simple drive for life that exists in all that lives and breathes. Patterns and rituals give us a connection point, a new beginning each time. Not every ritual speaks to every one...but everyone has something that will eventually speak to them even if it's on a subconscious level.
Our church has been celebrating Advent now for 4 weeks...tonight the last candle in the center will be lit, and the whole sanctuary will be darkened and lit only by the light of hundreds of candles as the 24th rolls to the 25th.
We will rejoice to be there, to remember the Birth of the Child (no matter He was probably born in April, in reality, and that we are actually working off of Ancient Pagan traditions for this date.)
And us being who and what we are will also honor the Turn of the Wheel of the Solstice and the rebirth of the year, rejoicing in the Holly King, and the Goddess delivered of her Child who will grow to become Summers High Lord.
We will be with those we love and those who love us, we will be together and we will remember and honor those whom we love who live far away.
The Wheel has turned - Darkness is passing away and the Light is returning...and perhaps that is all that any of us really need to know. Perhaps that is at the heart of all our rituals and beliefs right there.
Thanks Be to God...