This post is developed from a spoken reflection from notes that I offered to my CPE colleagues in prayer time on Wednesday, in observance of the solstice, which occurred Tuesday.
Breathe in… Breathe out…
Settle into your body…
Feet resting on the floor…
Chair supporting your weight…
I would like to invite you in, into the earth-centered part of my spiritual practice, in honor of the summer solstice, the longest day and shortest night of the solar year. For us in the global north, this was yesterday.
We are probably more familiar with the winter solstice, its associations with Christmas and the secular New Year: the rebirth of the sun, the coming of God into the world, the return of light in the season of deepest darkness… And just a note – Hannukah isn’t about the solstice, it has its own (historical) story – but even so, it falls in the same dark corner of the year, and that story too is one of light shining in the darkness and hope against all odds.
It’s a powerful story, the light that begins to grow in the deepest darkness. That one’s easy. Humans like that story.
But that’s the OTHER solstice – the one six months from now, at least in this hemisphere.
For pagan folks, it’s no less important to celebrate the return of the darkness: the shadow that begins to grow at the point of brightest light.
This one can be harder sometimes to understand. Our contemporary culture, the one we’re all embedded in, idolizes growth, expansion. Onward and upward! Bigger! Faster! Better! More!
But we can’t keep growing forever. It doesn’t work that way.
Unregulated growth in the cells of body is a hallmark of cancer. The wild abundant flourishing of microorganisms means illness for the patient whose body they infect.
Out in the world, unchecked growth – the insatiable quest for more – leads us to overpopulation… resource depletion… pollution… colonialism… mass consumption… addiction… economic injustice at the amoral hands of the free market…
We can’t keep growing forever.
Contemporary pagan practice offers another way. Not necessarily better, but a different approach, a different way to tell the story. Ours is a spiritual system rooted in balance: not static balance, but the dynamic balance of the cycles of the living world.
The sun rises… and it also sets.
The moon waxes.. and then it wanes.
The tides rise and fall.
The seasons turn, each after the next.
Seeds sprout. Flowers bloom. Fruit ripens. Seeds fall.
Air goes in and out with each cycle of the breath.
Blood goes round and round with each pulse of the heart.
We are born. We grow. We change. We live.
And eventually, we die.
The molecules that make up our bodies return to the world, and our spirits are released to whatever happens next.
The thing about cycles is that they circle back onto themselves. There’s a rhythm, a pattern that has no beginning, and no ending. Or, maybe better, every point in the cycle is the ending of what was, and the beginning of what is to come.
Let us sit for a moment with the seed of the darkness that begins to grow in the brightest moment of light, with the peak of the wave just before it begins to fall, with the pause between the in breath and the out breath; with every ending that is also a beginning.
God that we know by countless names,
You who are above and below,
Within and beyond,
Be here now: hear our prayer….