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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.

Trafficking Ritual 2017

1715228621_95dffe8330Christmas and its rich mythology call us to look past the serene pictures on cards and enter a story of homelessness, poverty, political repression and slaughter, refugees, and being strangers in a land where ancestors were enslaved for being “different.”

It is fitting that the week after Christmas begins National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, followed by days calling our attention to this blight: January 11, National Human Trafficking Awareness Day; January 17th (sometimes listed as the 15th or 19th), World Day of Migrants and Refugees (so easily prey to traffickers); February 8, International Trafficking Day and feast of Saint Josephine Bakhita (patron saint of victims of trafficking); even February 5, Super Bowl Sunday, when sex trafficking has been known to increase.

Those aware of the intrinsic bonds and interconnections among all life feel the pain of the children, men and women forced into bondage with no hope of rescue. I am grateful to Rose Mary Meyer, BVM, for providing the following Trafficking Ritual that can be used at any time. Human trafficking, Rose Mary reminds us, is happening every day, all year long, locally and globally.

Trafficking Ritual 2017

Instrumental Music

iraqi-refugees-mosul-offensiveOpening Prayer

Merciful and loving Creator, we have gathered together to hold in prayer those whom you cherish but who are bound by the trauma of labor and/or sex trafficking.  These children, women and men are hidden in plain sight among us, are clothed in fear-filled silence, are victims of trauma unable to break free.  May we open our eyes and our hearts to these persons who are trafficked in our midst.

Reading

Those caught in the horror of trafficking are missing persons.  Some have been missing for years.  Some have been discovered in graves.  Some have bodies that are diseased, mutilated, tortured.  Some have spirits that are damaged psychologically.  Many of these women and men are missing in multiple ways but are in our midst.

Source: Not a Choice, Not a Job, Janice G. Raymond.  Adapted

Shared Silence

Reading

Nikola, a young woman who is trafficked, feels she is of no value.  She feels she is in exile, away from all she knew growing up — family, home, friends, school, music, country of origin.

Shared Silence

Reading
child-trafficking
Samantha, a person who is trafficked, feels like a caged bird, caged in a room where she feels she is imprisoned by mistake, with no understanding of why this happened to her or how she is going to escape.  She is desperate.

Shared Silence

Reading

Othello feels trapped in the horror of labor trafficking.  He has no idea where he is or how to find his way back home in London.  He is brought to the restaurant everyday around five in the morning where he washes dishes, stacks and unstacks chairs, scrubs floors, peels vegetables and cuts fruit.  He eats what’s left on the plates of those who come to the restaurant to sit down and enjoy one another and the food.  When the work is finished after the last customers leave around 10 or 11 PM, he is taken to a house where other men who are trafficked live.  Each is locked from the outside in a small room with a mattress.  In a few hours all are awakened and driven back to the restaurant.

Shared Silence

Reader

Karena met Dusty at a club.  He bought her drinks and offered to take her home.  She was naïve in believing that he was concerned about her.  Home that night became a house where three other trafficked women already lived.  Dusty raped her the first night she was there.  She’s still recovering from all the unspeakable violence that she experienced from being trafficked, but she is deeply grateful for whoever reported what that person believed was happening in this house owned by the trafficker.  The house was raided by law enforcement.  She is now stitching her life together, slowly healing her physical and psychological wounds that will take a long time and many caring, loving, compassionate, understanding support people.  She knows she will be supported by these people on her life journey.

Shared Silence

Reading

We realize that children and adults are forced or deceived and moved to unfamiliar places for forced labor, for sexual exploitation.  Their humanness is degraded.  We feel sad.  We feel angry.  We feel fear at times.  We feel helpless at times.  We don’t always contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline — 2015-03-26-1427373681-8625596-polarisbillboard_lv_sextrafficking_phone 1 888 373-7888 — when we might have witnessed a trafficking situation.  May we strengthen each other in our commitment to open our eyes to the reality of trafficking and make calls, give only Fair Trade items as gifts, drink only Fair Trade coffee, tea, cocoa; feed our chocolate cravings with only Fair Trade chocolate, and help end this global and local slave trade in any way we can.  May we mirror in our actions the mercy and love of our Creator of all beings.

Concluding Prayer

Response

Creator of all beings, may we model your mercy, love, and compassion for our sisters and brothers who are trafficked.

We remember those caught in the web of local and global trafficking who are being moved from one unknown place to another.

Response

We remember those who are forced to live unspeakably horrible lives as humans who are labor and/or sex trafficked.

Response

We remember those who suffer unimaginable loneliness, nostalgia, physical and psychological pain.

Response

We remember our sisters and brothers who are trapped in the horrors of trafficking and still hold on to hope for freedom.

Response

All

p17fstq1utfvjid9g561f6ocdr0_61214May we all act with blessing rather than condemnation
toward our sisters and brothers
who are trafficked
and help to create
a tomorrow of freedom and justice.

May these persons who are trafficked
feel included rather than excluded
in societies worldwide.

May they experience renewing opportunities,
hear a strong voice for justice
and witness courageous actions against trafficking.

May they be abundantly blessed
with mercy and love from all of us,
inspired by our Creator of mercy and love.
Amen.  Amen.  Amen.

Text created by Rose Mary Meyer, BVM
Project IRENE

Winter.Solstice.Prayer.Dec. 21.2016

The time in December when the ancients thought the “sun stood still” (which is the literal meaning of “solstice”; what we now date to between the 20th and 23rd of December) was determined by people who lived in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere, this is the longest day of the year, and far from cold and dark. 

We know that the sun’s apparently-changed position each day is caused by the rotation of the Earth as it circles the Sun on a tilted axis of 23-and-a-half degrees. Thus Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres trade places in receiving the sun’s light and warmth most directly. At the December solstice, the Northern Hemisphere is leaning most away from the sun for the year.

unknown

Earlier members of our species had no knowledge of this fact. As the days became shorter, people were often frightened. Those who believed that the gods organized the travel of the sun might have initiated rituals so the gods would return light to their days. When, in fact, the following days became both longer and lighter, people in ancient times rejoiced and created traditional ways to celebrate.

Some ancient rituals survive to the present day, but many religious groups celebrate the coming of light by adding their own religious significance. When Christians began to celebrate Christmas, those in the Western church felt it was appropriate to “convert” the pagan solstice celebrations in order to honor the Light of the World. Eventually the date in the West was established for December 25th. (The Eastern church chose January 6th.) Thus in the West the solstice always precedes Christmas, but they are closely related.

The following ritual is appropriate for participants in the Northern Hemisphere; those in the South can use it later! 

Winter Solstice Ritual 2016: Celebrating Light

images-1Advance preparation: Adapt to suit your preferences. Arrange a candle centerpiece. Have candles for participants; prepare hymns and readers.  Organize refreshments for the end. Begin with minimal light. 

Reader 1: On this longest night of the year, before the light overcomes the dark, sit in the dark and think about the importance of darkness. Bless mushrooms that grow in the dark and honeysuckle that sends its luscious scents into the night. Be grateful for the darkness that soothes us to sleep, the darkness that animals require for hibernation. 

Reader 2: Give thanks for sheltering dark places: the rich earth where seeds germinate, the caves that harbored our ancient ancestors (and where some of our sun gods were born), the cellars that keep us safe from tornadoes, the wombs that provide our first nourishment. Acknowledge the darkness of suffering, which can deepen our appreciation of life and strengthen our connection to one another. (Reading 1 and 2 from In Nature’s Honor: Myths and Rituals Celebrating the Earth, Patricia Montley, Skinner House, 2005)

Close your eyes and relax. Let us praise the loving Mystery dwelling with us in our wondrous garden in our galaxy. Let us ponder the wonders of both darkness and light.

Reflection time

Hymn: cf. YouTube for Pauline Le Bel’s “Song for the Winter Solstice,” or  “Long Is Our Winter” sung as a round (words below), or any appropriate hymn:
Long is our winter, dark is our night, O come, set us free, O Saving Light! (2X)
Come, set us free, O Saving Light! O come, dwell among us, O Saving Light!

Reader 3: Let us be grateful for Brother Sun, lauded by St. Francis because he “brings the day and the light You give us through him. How beautiful he is, how radiant in all his splendor. Of You, Most High, he bears your likeness.” Let us be grateful for the fusion that causes Sun’s energy. Fusion is unlike anything we experience on Earth, though scientists are trying hard to replicate the process. Fusion in stars created the stardust that resulted in each of us and everything we know on Earth.

Reader 4: In the beginning, there was silence. In the beginning, there was darkness. In the beginning, there was no-thing . . . but in the silence, darkness, and nothingness, we believe that there was Love.

Reader 5: This love infused every religious tradition of peoples throughout Earth’s history. In our time, many religious and secular groups include light in their December celebrations. For example, Hanukkah – the eight-day festival of lights — and Christmas — with its emphasis on Light — coincide this year, each using candles to show respect for light.

Reader 6: Some Native American and Aboriginal groups also observe the Winter Solstice. They associate different beliefs and rituals with it. The Hopi tribe celebrations are “…dedicated to giving aid and direction to the sun which is ready to ‘return’ and give strength to budding life.” Their ceremony is called Soyal. We remember the many dedicated people who endured the cold and dark at Standing Rock in North Dakota to unite in protecting the sacred land and water presently being threatened there — and won!

Reader 7: Let us celebrate and honor the gift of fire. UnknownFire has held mystery since the first Flaring Forth.  The fire’s heat warms us and gives us light. Fire is used to purify and to cook food that nourishes us. It symbolizes the presence and love of God and a passionate love of life, of others, of all creation. Lovers speak of the fire of love in their hearts.

All: May the power, warmth, passion, and mystery of fire be given us. May its radiance permeate deep within our spirit. 

Light the center candle. As ready, individuals light their candles from this center candle. When everyone has lit a candle, individuals read petitions. Add or subtract as wanted. After each, all respond: Let us give thanks.

~ For the original Flaring Forth, for the searing explosion that began all we know of the Universe, Let us give thanks.

~ For the collapse and explosions of the supernovas that delivered to the Universe new elements that would “one day sparkle as life, as consciousness, as memories of beauty laced into genetic coding.” (The Universe Story, p. 61), Let us give thanks.

~ For the Sun that dominates our solar system and that makes life on Earth possible, Let us give thanks.sun_viewed_through_camera_lens

~ For the distance Earth stays from Sun, for Earth’s axis, for the gravitational spin assisted by our Moon, Let us give thanks.

~ For the many positive ways humans have harnessed the fire of the Sun to keep warm, to see, to grow food, to cook, and for those working to sustain healthful food and energy systems, Let us give thanks.

~ For our ancestors who, eons ago, celebrated the longest night of the year and the promise of brighter days, Let us give thanks.

~ For the birth of Jesus and the enlightenment he brought to the world, Let us give thanks.

~ For our Christian brothers and sisters preparing to celebrate Jesus’ birth, the Light of the World, Let us give thanks. 

~ For our brothers and sisters of other religious beliefs who celebrate their special days this season, Let us give thanks.

~ For those living and dead who have enlighten the world by their example and teaching [Pause to name them if desired.], Let us give thanks.

~ For being alive to celebrate this solstice, and for beloved friends and relatives whose memories warm our hearts, Let us give thanks. 

Add as desired.

Reflection time

Optional sharing: Why is Light an appropriate focus of unity for all people everywhere?

Hymn: Any appropriate hymn or song.

Final reader: Today, day begins to take back the night. I wish you all the warmth of lengthening of days; light for heart, mind, soul, and body; radiant smiles given and received; and the dayspring to guide your feet onto paths of peace. (France White, SHCJ)

Extinguish candles. Socialize.

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