Monday, December 21, 2009

Solstice

Monday, December 21, 2009 -- Week of 4 Advent, Year Two
Saint Thomas the Apostle

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer)

EITHER the readings for St. Thomas, p. 996
Morning Prayer: Psalms 23, 121; Job 42:1-6; 1 Peter 1:3-9
Evening Prayer: Psalms 27; Isaiah 43:8-13; John 14:1-7

OR, the readings for Monday of 4 Advent, p. 939
Psalms 61, 62 (morning) 112, 115 (evening)
Zephaniah 3:14-10
Titus 1:1-16
Luke 1:1-25

I chose the readings for St. Thomas

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy has has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead... In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials... Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy..." (1 Peter 1:3f)

It is the darkest day of the year. The longest night. Today is the winter solstice. Modern measurements tell us that at 11:47 a.m. this morning the earth will reach its furthest tilt away from the sun and begin the long reversal which will accomplish the return of length of day and warmth.

The solstice occurs sometime between December 21 and 22. It has been a solemn day of ritual observance for cultures and religions from before recorded history. In the year 45 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced a standardized calendar that set the date of the winter solstice on December 25. In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII revised the calendar, moving the solstice up a few days in December as we observe it today. Our church calendar marks our annual observance of the feast of the apostle Thomas each year on December 21.

Thomas seems an appropriate saint for this day. Thomas was the apostle who missed the resurrection of Easter. While the other disciples were rejoicing in the news that Jesus has risen from the dead, Thomas still lived with the dark, haunting memories of the deadly wounds and the hanging corpse of his friend. His condition was made even darker, colder, more isolating because he did not share the bright, wearm joy of his companions. They had seen and experienced something he had not seen. Their enthusiasm was not real enough to overcome the horrifying reality he had seen with his own eyes. Unless he could see something else as real as what he had witnessed on the cross, how could he be glad? How could he be comforted or joyful?

On this night our congregation offers its Blue Christmas service. It is a Eucharist that embraces the darkness at this time of year. It is especially for those who, like Thomas, have experienced such disappointment, death or loss that the holiday joy of others can remind us with new poignancy of the bitterness of our loss. In soft candlelight of a quiet, contemplative place, we can bring our sadness to a place where it can be honored and embraced. We tell the story of Thomas, whose grief and doubt was honored by a special appearance of the resurrected Christ. The living Jesus that Thomas saw still bore the wounds of his crucifixion, but now their meaning had changed. They spoke no longer of pain and death, but now of life and resurrection. Jesus honored Thomas' grief and gave him joy.

Around the world today, people are gathering at ancient shrines such as Stonehenge in England and Newgrange in Ireland, to stand at places where our ancestors marked the return of light and warmth.

In the night of December 24, the evening before the ancient Roman Deus Sol Invictus festival, the festival of the Undefeated Sun god on December 25, Christians will gather in their churches to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. In the morning children will wake up early to visit decorated evergreen trees erected in their homes in the midst of winter, and there they will discover wonderful gifts left by a mysterious visitor whose original identity is rooted in the ministry of a 4th century Bishop of Myra.

The church's stories and the earth's renewing patterns sing to us of "new birth into a living hope" given to us through the gloom and darkness of death's threat. Though we have not seen the return of the sun, we believe that spring will come, and we love the renewing patterns of the earth. Though we have not seen the resurrected Son as did Thomas, we believe the Son has come, and we love the renewing grace of love, hope and joy that he invites us to live in within the renewing patterns of his church. "In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials... Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy..."

Lowell
_____________________________________________

Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html


The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home