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Spring Equinox Celebration 2017

This year the moment of equal day and night happens on Monday, March 20th. Although climate chaos has altered weather patterns everywhere, the seasons remain consistent. Twice a year the day and night time are equal in length. Daylight increases in the Northern Hemisphere and lessens in the Southern.

ANCIENT AWARENESS

seasonsThe word equinox dates to the 14th century, but celebrations of this event can be traced to the Romans, Mayans, Egyptians, and Saxons. (For examples, see  www.ancient-origins.net/ancient-places/…equinox-around-world-001464.)

Though records of sky observations exist from about 8,000 years ago, some humans 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 included thoughts of rebirth and if they had religious significance.

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING

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

UnknownDefinitions of the spring equinox correctly state that it is “the time when the sun crosses the plane of the Earth’s equator resulting in equal parts of light and dark.” But this incorrectly implies that the sun has moved to this position. 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 for centuries, yet it is still a hard concept to remember!

The image shows Earth when it reaches this mid-point, but be sure to remember that our sun is about 110 times the diameter of Earth.

FAITH-FILLED CELEBRATIONS

Many religious groups use this time to honor special events in their history that relate to newness. The theme of rebirth and resurrection are present in the Christian tradition of Easter, celebrated this year on April 16th. In the Jewish faith, Passover begins April 10th. Early Pagans in the Germanic countries celebrated planting and the new crop season. Many Persian countries, with roots in Zoroastrianism, celebrate hope and renewal with the festival of No Ruz – which means “new day.”

MEMORIALS

By all means participate in whatever celebrations are held by the religion of your choice to honor specific events in its salvation history. This is sacred time, deserving our deep prayerful participation. But also remember why the celebrations take place at this time of year.

You might also wish to honor the equinox with this brief memorial, perhaps with new insights into your religious traditions:

1. Begin by being very conscious that you are held by gravity whether you are 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 the sun, remember that it is not moving; you, with Earth, are traveling. Integrate your special religious remembrances into this history.

2. Keeping in mind Earth’s rotation, check this image. Unknown-1It shows Earth’s size relative to our sun. We know we travel completely around the sun each year. Far from being close, Sun is about 90 million miles away, and its light takes eight minutes to reach us. Once each year, when our double trajectory is just right, we experience the spring (or autumn in the Southern Hemisphere) equinox. Recall that our sun is a star.

3. Ponder Walt Whitman’s poem, “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

No matter what time of day it is, stars are around us. Enter into the feeling of this poem. Look out (not necessarily up!) to wonder, to marvel, to be aware of the equinox mystery and our place in the cosmos.

4. End this memorial as creatively and meaningfully as your imagination allows!

 

Ash Wednesday 2017 Stardust Ritual

If ever we needed reminders of the fact of the interconnection among all existence, as affirmed by cosmology, quantum physics, and other sciences — as well as mystics and saints — it is now, when dualistic thinking is causing havoc. Whole groups are being vilified and artificially separated from the rest: “winners” from “losers”; “good guys” from whoever the judging group happens to be; humans from Earth, our common home with which we share existence. Lent offers a good opportunity to “re-pent” — re-think — these rifts.

image_540_1Everything has come from elements resulting from generations of exploding stars. Our Solar System and everything in it developed from a shimmering cloud of stardust elements like calcium, carbon, and hydrogen resulting from a supernova explosion. Thus we, too, are made of stardust elements. On Ash Wednesday, Christians traditionally receive a cross of ashes on their foreheads to remind them that they are dust. The following ritual is meant to enrich this realization by reminding us that, even before we are dust, we are stardust!  (For a two-sided pdf copy, please contact terrishcj@aol.com.)

Needed: one candle and a dish of dirt (or glitter, representing stardust). Decide who will read.

Leader: To begin, let us pause to recall past times whenashes_6329cp we have received ashes on our foreheads and heard words like these: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  Remember how that influenced your practices during Lent.  

Pause to Reflect.  
Carry those thoughts and graces with you now, but place them in a larger context: the context of the entire universe and its amazing 13.8 billion-year history. After billions of years, thanks to the divine Mystery living and acting in our world and in us, stars formed and died in the process of bringing Earth to existence. We became part of this blessed creation. We are connected to all life; we have a role in this sacred story!

Light candle. 

blastReader One: The massive star that was mother to our Sun met with fiery death, her form completely annihilated by the explosive force of the blast. And yet she exists in each of us, in the cells of our bodies that are composed of her dust. Consciously or not, we carry her within us as surely as we carry the DNA of our biological parents. (Radical Amazement, Judy Cannato)

Reader Two: Our planet Earth was once a dancing star, evolving over four and a half billion years ago from the many elements of [an exploding] supernova. I have loved knowing that we are “made of stardust” . . .  I like knowing that the composition of my body has the elements of a star that was once brilliantly aglow in the universe and is now dancing in me. There’s a magical sense of connection that comes from this knowledge . . . . (The Cosmic Dance, Joyce Rupp)

Reader Three: Dust particles are suspendedimages in the air at all times, unnoticed until sunlight bathes them in radiant streaming light. In this warmth, the specs sparkle. No one who cares about shiny furniture is unaware of what dust can accomplish, just by being. Nothing is insignificant in our universe!

Litany of gratitude:
•  for the Spirit present within the creative process of creation and within each of us, We are grateful.
•  for the generations of supernovas that exploded, resulting in stars with increasingly more of the heavy elements, eventually leading to the supernova that resulted in our solar system and galaxy, We are grateful.
images-5•  for Sister Dirt, because of whom we can enjoy food, flowers, plants, clean air, shade, and revelations of the divine, We are grateful.
•  for farmers who till the soil, especially our local farmers who do it organically using fair trade practices, We are grateful.
•  for those who lobby to prevent mono-cropping, toxic fertilizers, and the use of GMO’s that endanger the earth, We are grateful.
•  for the scientists, theologians, thinkers, writers, speakers and artists who have helped us realize our place in creation — [Pause to quietly remember one or two who have helped you. Name them if you wish], We are grateful.
•  for those present and throughout the world committed to creating a flourishing Earth, including Pope Francis, and for his encyclical Laudato Si’We are grateful.

Sharing:
Jesus, too, was stardust! Jesus, too, died to give new life, as each seed must do. How might we connect the creation  story with our Lent experiences this year? How might our Lent resolutions reflect our call to care for E/earth?

Blessing of soil (or glitter):
May this soil (or glitter), which dates back billions of years images-2and which took over 4 billion years to form on Earth, keep us humble — humus is the Latin for soil. May it remind us of who we are and how vitally we interconnect with the rest of creation. May we trust in divine power working in us for the good of all creation.  Amen.

Individual blessings, using soil (or glitter):
Depending on the number of participants, either divide into pairs, each member blessing the other with soil from the center bowl, or form a circle and pass the bowl of soil, each blessing the person on his or her right.

100_1230Thank you, (name), for bringing your starlight into my life. I bless you and the star-stuff you invest in caring for all of creation. (Add anything you may wish to say at the beginning of our Lenten Journey.)

Extinguish candle. 

Socialize.

Thoughts before Valentine’s Day

valentines-day-rosesBefore Big Business exploited the commercial value of February 14th by selling cards, candy, candles, and flowers*, the day honored St. Valentine — a Roman priest who secretly married couples when the emperor had forbidden his soldiers to marry. For this, Valentine was executed. His feast day was meant to remind us that the call to love transcends political regulations.

The concept of love has evolved, always expanding. From love of immediate family and tribe, it broadened to loving those beyond tribal members, provided they were friends. Jesus expanded the concept to include enemies — a challenging concept even today. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” became an accepted goal of most religions. Modern science introduced us to a vast and interconnected creation that has been evolving for aeons. Many discovered that their surroundings were not a collection of objects, but rather a communion of subjects — as Thomas Berry stated it. Nothing can be isolated from the whole. Science has also shown us the power of love. No “other,” of whatever religion, color, or nationality, is separate from us, and those in need deserve preferential care.

Here are some challenging quotes to ponder about the kind of love needed in our time. Important notes on Valentine’s Day gift-giving follow*:

 Jesus of Nazareth 

jesus-na-sinagoga-de-nazare-foto-do-filmeAs found in Matt. 5: Love your enemies! … If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even scoundrels do that much. If you are friendly only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even the heathen do that ….

As found in John 13: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

mte5ntu2mze2mjgwndg5ndgzMartin Luther King, Jr.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.

Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.


Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

pierre-teilhard-de-chardins-quotes-8… Love is the most universal, the most tremendous and the most mysterious of the cosmic forces.

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.

Love is a sacred reserve of energy; it is like the blood of spiritual evolution.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

Your favorites? Please add other quotes (women’s needed!) in Comments. Thanks!

~~~~~
If you give cards, candy, candles, or flowers, live your love this way:

  • Cards: Make sure paper is recycled or from sustainable sources. This protects forests, a vital contributor to reducing global warming. Recycled things reduce waste and pollution. Also, recycle the ones you receive.
  • Candy: Give chocolate labeled Fair Trade. Cacao farming done improperly strips the world of hundreds of thousands of acres of rainforest. More than 15,000 child slaves work on cacao farms in west Africa. Fair Trade guarantees social justice, environmental protection, and economic development.
  • Candles: Avoid paraffin, which is the byproduct of gas and oil refineries and will emit pollutants and carcinogens.
  • Flowers: Give Fair Trade flowers. Conventional workers are often exploited to keep costs low, leading to severe abuse and mistreatment. (Mega farms in South America mostly employ women, often for long hours and low pay, including unpaid overtime. Some have been accused of using child labor.) The work can result in repetitive stress injuries and exposure to pesticides and herbicides, including known carcinogens. The not-fair-trade farms suck up local water and leave behind toxic chemical residues.