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Autumn Equinox Celebration

Autumn Equinox Celebration 2020

This year the moment of equal day and night happens on Tuesday, September 22. It will signal autumn in the Northern Hemisphere and spring in the Southern.  Although climate chaos has altered weather patterns everywhere, the seasons — if not the expected weather — remain consistent. The following applies to Autumn Equinox. (For those entering Spring, please check out sites (including this one) for spring celebrations, or adapt this one
This image gives the general idea, but is  vastly out of proportion. See the image below for a better idea of Earth’s size compared to the Sun’s.

BACKGROUND: ANCIENT AWARENESS

The word equinox dates to the 14th century. Celebrations of this event can be traced to the Romans, Mayans, Egyptians, and Saxons.

Records of sky observations exist from about 8,000 years ago, yet some humans must have noticed the changes even before these formal breakthroughs. How awesome to imagine someone’s early “Aha”! What an awakening and cause for celebration! One wonders if early celebrations had any religious or spiritual significance.

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

Our early ancestors could not have pictured what we know is really happening: our sphere, rotating to create day and night, is also hurling around the sun, 90 million miles away. Earth revolves around the Sun — which is our star — at a speed of about 18.5 miles, or 30 km, a second. It was happening aeons before humans evolved to observe it.

Some definitions of the equinox incorrectly imply that it is the sun that crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator resulting in equal parts of light and dark. Our awareness shifts when we realize that Earth has reached the point in its journey around the sun when its equator is in line with the Sun. We’ve known that fact for centuries, yet it is still a hard concept to grasp. We even persist in saying “sunrise” and “sunset,” terms that have been obsolete for many generations!

The white dot on the image shows Earth’s size relative to our star. The light we see and feel left that star eight minutes before we can see and feel it.

CELEBRATION

The Spring Equinox provides opportunities to celebrate new and increasing life and light. The Autumn Equinox invites us to to pause and ponder the essential other half of life: the transition to, and the experience of, death and darkness. 

The initiator of the following celebration might choose to create a lovely fall display for a center table. Arrange to have technology prepared on which to show the suggested video www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qyHuwy0bgw.

Leader: 

Welcome to this celebration of the Autumn Equinox and the beginning of a new season in the evolution of Planet Earth.

Reader 1: Let us celebrate the transformation of leaves from green hues to brilliant yellows, oranges, and reds as each leaf’s chlorophyll is depleted. Even the browns that follow are rich in beauty!

2. Let us celebrate harvests and pumpkins. Let us celebrate crisp air and compost, the combination of food scraps and brown and green matter — decomposed organic material that seems dead and yet will soon vibrate with life and become rich humus for enriching soil. 

3. Let us celebrate darkness, which fosters thought, gives candlelight it opportunity to shine, provides respite for animals (including humans). 

4. What else shall we celebrate? (Participants share.)

5. As we begin, deepen your awareness that we are held by gravity whether sitting, standing, or lying down. Imagine your place in your bioregion and its size. Continue extending awareness of your place until you feel embedded in your hemisphere and this entire planet. Our spherical home is relentlessly rotating East. Try to sense that movement. If you can see our star, remember that it is not moving; you, with Earth, are circling her. Imagine yourself where you belong on the image above as we journey around our star.

6. Ease yourself into this new season by watching the 6 minute video “The Autumn Soothing”: www.youtube.com/watch?v=9qyHuwy0bgw

7. Optional: Share thoughts and/or feelings you experienced as you watched the video.

8. Say together: “For all that has been, Thank you. For all that is to come, Yes!”
(Dag Hammarskjold)

End this memorial with socializing including, if possible, refreshments appropriate for this season — using apples? pumpkins? squash?

Thanksgiving and Native Americans

I live barely a block from Lake Michigan. I see it from my windows, and I can walk to its shore in minutes. When there, I sometimes join in spirit with the Potawatomi who must also have stood there, marveling at the pristine incoming waves. 

They did not know — as I do — that they evolved billions of years ago from creatures who originally lived in water, or that their bodies were over 70% water. But they had a very advanced reverence for, and unity with, water and all creation. How sad, how tragic, how foolish we were to reject their sense of the sacred and use Earth’s water and resources in ways that desecrate them, thus harming all lives, including our own! 

Every corner of this continent was originally Indian country. There are more than 565 federally-recognized tribes and hundreds of unrecognized tribes. Each tribe has its own culture, customs, traditional clothing, dwellings, and rituals. How would we feel if strangers forced us and our families to leave our homes so they could claim to have “found” this land — and too often spoil it? Why might Native Americans respond to Thanksgiving holidays with acts of rebellion and resistance?

As we give thanks for our abundant gifts this Thanksgiving, let us also remember and value the example our indigenous ancestors left us. Let us remember the injustices done to them both in past centuries and also today. Let us do what we can to protect their sacred burial grounds and their human rights, and let us strive to reduce the pollution and wasteful use of water caused by industries and by ourselves (e.g., if we use bottled water or plastic straws). 

In her gloriously inspiring book, Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, Robin Wall Kimmerer tells us that Native peoples globally send greetings and thanks to all members of the natural world each day. Here is one excerpt taken from the Haudenosaunees’ all-encompassing Thanksgiving Address:

We now turn our thought to the Creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greeting and thanks to the Creator. Now our minds are one. (p. 115)

Robin ends that chapter with this sobering thought:

Every day, with these words, the people give thanks to the land. In the silence that falls at the end of those words I listen, longing for the day when we can hear the land give thanks for the people in return. (p. 117)

May we speed that day!

Season of Creation 2018

Signs of hope for creation can seem scarce, but think of this: From September 1st until the Feast of St. Francis, October 4th, church members — and the non-churched — throughout the entire world will join to celebrate and protect the gift of creation.

Watch for action organized by other groups that will take place during those dates, like the September 8th Rise for Climate rallies throughout the world and the September 10-16 Story of Stuff project, when volunteers around the world will be picking up plastic litter and tallying what brands and products show up most often. (This data will help the #breakfreefromplastic movement to get at the sources of plastic pollution.)

Think of the difference joining in prayer and action during this season could make for all of our planet!

Background: These dates were first chosen by the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1989. The World Council of Churches has promoted this season since 2008, and its popularity has spread throughout the entire Christian world. In 2015, Pope Francis named September 1st the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and asked Catholics to participate in the entire season of celebration and care. 

Theme(s): I have read different information about the theme. One group lists it as “walking together.” Another lists the theme as “Your Father Feeds the Birds and Clothes the Flowers in Beauty.”

Christians will recognize “Your Father Feeds the Birds and Clothes the Flowers in Beauty” as taken from Matthew 6: 25-33. It invites our focus on what Matthew reports that Jesus said about the providential care of our Creator for the continued well being of Creation — which, of course, was not threatened in Jesus’ time. 

(Closer to October 4th I shall post information for celebrating the feast of St. Francis, which has its own theme: “Who is My Neighbor in a Climate – Threatened World?”)

The entire Season of Creation provides an excellent opportunity to reflect on whether our actions uphold or upset the well-being of creation. It’s very important to take the matter of care of creation out of the political arena and return it to the moral and religious one where it belongs. 

The recommended words from Matthew are challenging. To save you from researching them, I shall quote them using the translation from the Eugene H. Peterson’s translation (including his italics). This might help us look anew at Jesus’ message. As you contemplate these words, remember that they reflect the religious imagination of his time, which placed God in human form somewhere away from us. Today we strive to image the divine as living and acting in us and in our world, and we rejoice in the divine presence everywhere. 

Matthew 6: 26 – 33:

“You cannot worship two gods at once. Loving one god, you’ll end up hating the other. Adoration of one feeds contempt for the other. You cannot worship God and Money both. 

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t make a fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion. There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body. Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion — do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the  wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers — most of which are never even seen — don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and the way he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

Pause to reflect.

My challenge (and hope): Write one paragraph stating the essentials of this ever-relevant message — perhaps incorporating thoughts from “walking together” — with contemporary understanding of creation and the threats to its well-being. OK to include quotes from Laudato Si’. End with a short prayer. Post in Comments so we can all be enriched by each other’s wisdom and compassion. If writing doesn’t “grab” you, at least try it in your head.