More light shines with solstice
Finally! The Solstice arrives at 10:30 (MST) tonight. Hereon, sunlight time will lengthen, except maybe in Georgetown. By the time he surmounts the town’s eastern ridge, oftentimes clouds block or at least diffuse ol’ sol’s rays.
Still, for those who worship—not necessarily literally—the sun, the Winter Solstice is a time of great tidings and joy.
The ancients celebrated it with ritual. They dedicated the period, particularly December 25th, to their gods—Mithras (Persian), Apollo (Greek), and Saturn (Roman)—to mark the returning of light.
Early Christians initially shunned doing likewise to differentiate themselves from pagans, but soon enough they realized the benefits of co-opting the day. I wrote about that—hard to believe—six years ago today, which you can read on my website.
In that column, I mention the Greeks celebrating the birth of Apollo, their god not only of light and sun but also music and intellect. The concepts all tie nicely together.
On my trip to Greece, I visited Delos, the place of Apollo’s birth. As I made my way through the ruins listening intently to our guide, I couldn’t help but make the correlation of Delos with Bethlehem. There is, after all, equal historical evidence for both.
In time, Delos, an island not easily accessible, became commercialized and thus its sacredness defiled. Money, which some worship literally, can do that. It was not hard to note as well the connection between the Greeks’ experience and of today’s Christianity.
The Pilgrims, who fled persecution in England and sailed to the New World to establish a shining City on a Hill, took their Christianity seriously and so forbade celebrating Christmas.
According to Caleb Johnson, historian, author, and Mayflower descendant, the Pilgrims believed “These holidays were invented by man to memorialize Jesus, and are not prescribed by the Bible or celebrated by the early Christian churches, and therefore cannot be considered Holy days.”
Johnson quotes Puritan Pastor John Robinson who said, “[Christmas] seems too much for any mortal man to appoint, or make an anniversary memorial.”
Apparently, Plymouth’s first governor William Bradford didn’t much get in the spirit of the season. He saw December 25, 1621, because it wasn’t on a Sabbath, like any other, so organized a work party to take care of the usual daily chores such as hunting and gathering wood.
Like Bradford, I prefer working on that day. It’s nice to be able to help others enjoy their time, and it’s nice to allow co-workers who would like the day to be with family and friends have their time. It’s a win-win situation.
Others, though, struggle with the whole thing, and I’ve written on that too.
It’s refreshing to see awareness of others’ plights, sometimes desperate, increasing. The Courant reported a few weeks ago on the county’s new Care2BAware that focuses on those facing inordinate psychological problems that can be exacerbated during this time. The key is to reach out for help. For those observing a family member or friend suffering, a key is to be open to their situation and talking to them about it. It’s like having a physical disability in this respect: There’s nothing to be ashamed of.
It’s about compassion, understanding that just because one has a good outlook or is prospering does not mean everyone else is, unlike erstwhile Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain who said “If you don’t have a job and you’re not rich, blame yourself.” To him, if unemployed or not rich, you’re a shiftless, lazy bum.
Until, and maybe not even then, he’s struck by a blinding light Paul of Tarsus style, he won’t grasp, like many other capitalistic ideologues, that a major part of the reason he has made a killing is because he has managed to acquire a stable of underpaid pepperoni slicers.
In East of Eden, John Steinbeck plays on Jesus’ curious words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3).
Through the character Lee who is of Chinese descent, Steinbeck writes, “Riches seem to come to the poor in spirit, the poor in interest and joy. To put it straight—the very rich are a poor bunch of bastards. [Lee] wondered if that were true. They acted that way sometimes.”
Both give us much on which to reflect.
There is a bit of good news in this time of the returning light: American combat troops finally out of Iraq after nine disastrous years. What a tragedy!
Celebrate the Solstice, have a merry Christmas, and a happy Chanukah and Kwanzai. It is, after all, about to get brighter.