Holy innocents, unholy rage

We remember today, O God, the slaughter of the holy innocents of Bethlehem by King Herod. Receive, we pray, into the arms of your mercy all innocent victims; and by your great might frustrate the designs of evil tyrants and establish your rule of justice, love, and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Thus says the LORD:
A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.
Thus says the LORD:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work,
says the LORD:
they shall come back from the land of the enemy;
there is hope for your future,
says the LORD:
your children shall come back to their own country.

–Jeremiah 31:15-17

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In the bleak midwinter

It actually looks like winter hereabouts, for a change–a rare and heavy December snowfall from last weekend still covers much of the city, and temperatures have been just above freezing all week.

Right now I’m engaging in the first of my Christmas Eve traditions: Listening to the service of Nine Lessons & Carols from King’s College, Cambridge, on public radio.  They’re singing the lovely Harold Darke setting of Christina Rossetti’s poem “In the bleak midwinter” and have just launched into a rousing accompanied version of “Personent Hodie”–I think this is the setting by Gustav Holst.

At this time of year, nothing beats the English carol tradition for me.  English devotion to the Virgin and celebration of the Incarnation, expressed in song, epitomize Advent and Christmas for me, from the marvelous medieval texts celebrating the Blessed Virgin to the twentieth-century settings of them from British composers.  I can listen to carols with the classic descants by David Wilcox over and over and never complain, never wish for anything different (even if I can no longer sing those descants without, er, straining myself).

Tonight, another tradition: Midnight Mass at the church where my husband is the organist.  The choir will be performing a Mozart Mass accompanied by organ and strings, along with a musical prelude.  It will be well after one in the morning before we get home and settle into bed, intoxicated with musical ecstasy.  Fortunately, we won’t be awakened by small eager children at oh-god-hundred; there are advantages to having one’s offspring grow up and do their own Christmas shopping.  *g*

And now, we’re off to enact another personal Christmas tradition: Shopping for wrapping supplies so we can wrap gifts at the last minute.  Happy Christmas, everyone!

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Peace on earth?

To a practicing Christian, especially on the more Catholic end of the spectrum, Christmas as it is now celebrated doesn’t look very religious; it celebrates human greed and anxiety rather than divine and human generosity, and frantically tries to drive away the silence and darkness that are Nature’s gifts this time of year.

To a non-Christian person, however, Christmas doesn’t look very secular; Jews, Muslims, atheists don’t feel the tree, the lights, and the secular songs belong to them any more than the Christ Child, the shepherds, or the wise men.  To make it worse, fundamentalist Christians insist that Christmas is under attack, that evil pagans or secularists are trying to wipe away the Christian nature of the holiday, a contention which seems self-evidently wrong to a non-Christian.

Peace on earth? good will to men?  I will be praying for it.

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Exactly what it says on the tin

I no longer call myself a druid, but I feel more druidic than ever as I absorb the morning sunlight on my walk to work.  I have finally realized how much my well-being depends on exposure to the light.

I haven’t thought of myself as a Christian in a while, but I feel more Anglican than ever as I say the Daily Office and find strength and stability in the practice, and new meaning in the familiar texts.

I am not really practicing as a Buddhist, even though I formally took refuge and the bodhisattva vow, but the perspectives of Mahayana and Vajrayana have illuminated and revived my Western religious and magical practice.

I don’t know what to call myself or my path, except to say that I am a magician, and I work in the Western magical tradition or with the Western Mysteries; I have no convenient labels or fancy poetic phrases.  I do know that if, as many systems say, there are three chief stages to the Path, then I am at last firmly in stage two: No longer a beginner, no longer uncertain of my commitment, purified and being illuminated, a Proficient (in the Christian sense, as used by Anglican writer Martin Thornton), an Adept (in the Hermetic sense, if only a fledgling), an aspiring bodhisattva.

More and more, I seek to expose myself to the Light.

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Not a stable, but a cave

An Orthodox icon of the Nativity… In the Orthodox tradition, as spelled out in a beautiful hymn sung on Christmas Day, the incarnation of Jesus is only possible because every aspect of creation offers something to make it happen. The heavens offer a star; the angels their song; the earth, a mountain; the mountain a cave; the wilderness its grass for the manger; the cattle their warming breath; and humanity Mary’s womb.

Martin Palmer in the Guardian (UK)

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Thank you…

… to my friend Megan Amoss, who made my lovely new custom header at my request.

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Poem for the Solstice

I spotted this at 108ZenBooks, remembered it from the lovely book Earth Prayers, and thought it was perfect for the day.  Nanao Sakaki, who died a year ago today, is the poet:

Within a circle of one meter
You sit, pray and sing

Within a shelter ten meters large
You sleep well, rain sounds a lullaby.

Within a field a hundred meters large
Raise rice and goats.

Within a valley, a thousand meters large
Gather firewood, water, wild vegetables and Amanitas.

Within a forest ten kilometers large
Play with raccoons, hawks,
Poison snakes and butterflies.

Mountainous country Shinano
A hundred kilometers large
Where someone lives leisurely, they say.

Within a circle one thousand kilometers large
Go to see southern coral reef in summer
Or winter drifting ices in the sea of Okhotsk.

Within a circle ten thousand kilometers large
Walking somewhere on the earth.

Within a circle one hundred thousand kilometers large
Swimming in the sea of shooting stars.

Within a circle one million kilometers large
Upon the spaced-out yellow mustard blossoms
The moon in the east, the sun in the west.

Within a circle ten billion kilometers large
Pop far out of the solar system mandala.

Within a circle one million light years large
Andromeda is melting away into snowing cherry flowers.

Now within a circle ten billion light years large
All thoughts of time, space are burnt away
There again you sit, pray and sing
You sit, pray and sing

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