18 Dec Let there be light… and dark.
Last Christmas, I attended an informal outdoor interfaith service. During that gathering, I realized that it was time for me to dive deeper into my curiosity about the intersections of religions and spirituality. And a year later, I’m four months into an interfaith seminary program. That service a year ago was focused on light, and my attention has found its way back to light in this season of darkness.
I’ve been specifically thinking about candlelight. Perhaps because last night was the final night of Hannukah and for the first time this year, I had a menorah and lit the candles for eight nights while saying prayers to bring light to the darkness. Perhaps its because I’ve been lighting candles a lot more to mark the opening of sacred space and the rituals and practices I am working with as I move through seminary. And perhaps it’s because candlelight feels associated with the holiday season and divinity in general. Lighting a candle and having one nearby (there is one sitting next to me right now) seems to slow me down, to ground me, to reconnect me to what is real somehow, and to mark a moment as sacred and intentional.
Once I really started thinking about where and how candlelight has shown up in my life as well as in spirituality, I realized that candles are used in almost every faith tradition for rituals and/or as divine symbolism. I could write a very long blog post about this, but I figured I’d focus on the three holidays celebrated in some way with candlelight this time of year: Judaism’s Hannukah (lighting the menorah), Paganism’s Winter Solstice (Yule Ritual with a collection of candles including a “sun” candle) and Christianity’s Christmas (Advent candles in the month leading up to Christmas as well as candlelight services).
At the most basic level, all of these holidays are about (for me at least) the celebration, awakening and return of light, hope, love and miracles.Celebrating the light seems more significant and sacred this year because of the darkness that we’ve been navigating. And yet, I realize this year how important it is not to just bypass the darkness or leave it behind. Darkness – the night, the rest, our challenges, our dark moments and seasons in life, the dark parts of ourselves and our experience – it is all a valued part of our experience. Divinity (God) is often associated with light, but perhaps it is inboththat divinity exists – there is so much richness in the dark, and perhaps we are whole beings made of light and dark in equal measure. And that is to be celebrated.
A number of months ago, I was speaking with one of the spiritual leaders of my program and she pointed out that in in the bible (side note: am I really quoting the bible?!… Yup, I am), Genesis 1:3 states “And God said, Let there be light.”… LET there be light. Not “there will be light” or “There is light” or “Make light.” But LET there be light. It is about allowing the light to be present and notice the light that is present.
So this season, I will let there be light and dark, and perhaps I will even celebrate both. I invite you to do the same. In some moments, months or years, there will be more of one than the other and that’s okay.
As you move through the holiday season, allow for the grief and also joy if it comes. Allow for the laughter and also the tears. Allow for the dark and allow for the light. Allow for and honor it all.
And perhaps during this darkest season of the year (in the northern hemisphere), you’ll be called to light a candle. Light a candle to invite in both the light and the dark. Light a candle to bring light to the darkness of those that have passed or are suffering. Light a candle to celebrate your darkness, lightness and wholeness. Light a candle to represent loved ones lost or those who can’t be with you during the holidays. Or, light a candle just because it feels good.
In honor of this season of dark and light, I invite you to join me for a free Winter Solstice Virtual Ritual on Sunday evening, 8-9PM est. I usually do these in person, but this year, we will gather on zoom. Traditional Pagan Winter Solstice rituals welcome in the light that is returning. This ritual will allow for, honor and celebrate both the dark and the light. We will reflect on what has passed, do some releasing, and also some welcoming in. If you are interested in joining, please sign up here (even if you’re possibly interested – it’s good to have the details if you’re interested) – I will send out zoom details on Sunday before the gathering.
In love and light (and dark),
The Connected Way™