The Season of Winter
by Kelly Morrow
As the days get cooler and the leaves fall from the trees, we move from the season of autumn toward the darkest days of the year. The sunlight continues to decrease and the nights lengthen, as winter promises to arrive soon. Looking into the natural world, we see the earth growing quieter. The plants seem to rest. The animals store food for the cold months ahead. The snow, soon to come, will bring a deeper blanket of quiet to the earth. We endeavor, as human beings, to hold our inner strength, light, and courage from the season of autumn even as we enter into this time of darkness.
It is not a surprise that various people around the world, from all paths and beliefs, plan many festivals for these dark days. These celebrations of light, community, and sharing remind us to carry the gifts of the summer with us into the quiet of winter. The Hindu festival of light, Diwali, celebrates the inner light that perseveres over spiritual darkness, good over evil, while colorful lanterns and oil lamps shine into the darkness. The Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, the remembrance of the rededication of the Temple and of the miracle of lamps whose oil lasted for eight days, falls at this time of year too. The winter solstice is also celebrated with special joy, lighting fires and candles, and exchanging gifts. The lighting of a candle for each week of Advent during the month of December leads to the celebration of Christmas.
In the dimming of the sun at this time of year, it is time to turn inward and create a light of our own during the season. We prepare for the return of the sun, the lengthening of days, and for the insights that we can gain from reflection on the year that has been and on what may come.
Here at MPCS, in the beginning of November, the young children gather on a dark, cold night carrying a lantern lit with a candle while singing songs together in our Lantern Walk. They carefully protect their own shining light while also sharing it out into the darkness with others. At this time, we remember Martin on an icy cold November day long ago, as he recognized the divine spark in a poor beggar and shared his cloak with him. We too can seek the divine spark in others.
Later, in early December, when we are in the midst of the hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, we take a moment in time to step away from this busyness and replace it with a mood of peaceful quiet, reverence, contemplation, and beauty at MPCS. We honor this moment by entering into the Spiral Garden with an unlit candle in an apple. The candle is lit at the center of the spiral and then as one retraces steps to exit the spiral, the light is shared with others, contributing to the illumination of the darkness (and the world).
These festivals of light celebrate a kindling of the inner light as winter draws close. We wait in anticipation of the gift of that which is to be born anew. We experience a renewed promise that spring light and life will come again.