Monday, December 22, 2014

Lying fallow

As Christmas gets closer, I feel the weight of the season on my spirit. "Happiest time of the year?" not in my universe. I have seen too much death in December, buried too many people in snowy cemeteries. I'll pass.

Except there's not really that option, is there? The family expects Christmas to arrive with all good cheer. My church expects the same. So I go along, even though I would rather be sitting on a sunny balcony in Mexico, looking out at a calm sea and reading a very long, fat, interesting book.

But I went to two services this weekend that helped me a bit, that lifted that December weight for awhile.

The first was a "Blue Christmas" service at a  nearby Episcopal Church. My own parish doesn't offer this, but I think it's a wonderful tradition to start. The few in attendance sat in the choir stalls, which were abundantly supplied with boxes of tissues. The readings were consolatory, referring to the brokenness of grief and disappointment we may feel at this time of year, while forcibly surrounded by Christmas music and good cheer. The Rector encouraged us to name those we mourned, and to light a candle for them in the nearby votive rack. There was also a bowl of salt water, representing God's tears, as a reminder to us that God weeps with us in our sorrow. The hymns were low-key: "Away in a Manger," "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel," and "In the Bleak Midwinter."   The Music Director sang "The Wayfarer" at Communion. The service was moving and uplifting, and I was happy that I attended.

On Sunday, the day of the Winter Solstice, I played hooky and attended a Solstice service at a local Unitarian Universalist Church. The service was entitled, "Yuletide Blessings: A Winter Solstice Celebration," and included a beautiful reflection on the winter season as a time to lie fallow in the cold and dark, sink our roots deep, and reassess what we want to do in the springtime. The music was also lovely: a women's group sang a song called, "Light is Returning" as the prelude, and "Winter Solstice Round" as the postlude; the choir offered John Purifoy's "Sun and Earth" at the offertory. I felt afterwards that I had been reconnected to my roots on this planet, assured that spring would eventually come with the increasing of the light.

This is one thing we don't often get to do in the modern world -- lie fallow. Our ancestors knew that fields' lying fallow was an agricultural necessity, but we have now lost that  imperative to rest and regather our strength.

I hope to use the winter quiet -- which I hope to find after the holidays -- for some lying fallow myself.

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