“I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness, the astonishing Light of your own being.” Hafiz
Throughout the ages mystics and avatars, saints and sages have all experienced the light immanent and transcendent – within and all around – as the primary influence at the heart of the spiritual experience. We ordinary humans are also composed of light, for our DNA entrains light waves. Photons and filaments inside our bodies are created in the image and likeness/lightness of the One Light and the nucleus of our cells are filled with the radiant light of divine intelligence. We are light in physical form.
Is it any wonder, then, that humanity is drawn to the light at the heart of religious and spiritual holidays? Long before Jesus the Christ walked the earth, many other holy day observances were held in different parts of the world. Even today these ancient lights, and some more modern luminaries, still shine around the globe during this collective Season of Light. Each of these celebrations holds a gift in its hand: renewal, dedication, community, joy, and love.
Winter Solstice and Yule — The Gift of Renewal
Solstice, meaning sun stand, is a celebration of the ascension of the sun. Around December 22nd we have our shortest day and longest night of the year, and it was at this time of year that the Pagan people, fearful that the sun god had forsaken them, would build great fires and kindle lights to encourage the sun god to revive his lamp. There was much feasting and rejoicing as the days grew longer, for soon spring would come and life would once again flourish.
Nowadays the renewal of sunlight may not mean that much with all of our electrical conveniences, but back then life depended on daylight for sustenance. When it all seems darkest, isn’t it comforting to know that Life, in all its ingenious ways, does indeed go on?
Hanukkah — The Gift of Dedication
Hanukkah, meaning dedication, is celebrated for eight days by lighting candles on a menorah every night, starting on the 25th of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar (which is November-December on the Gregorian calendar).
After the Jewish victory over the Hellenist Syrians, Judah Maccabee and his soldiers cleaned and repaired the defiled Temple. Having a big dedication ceremony included the lighting of the menorah, so they looked everywhere for oil. They had enough oil for only one day, but miraculously it lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to acquire new oil to keep the menorah lit. Today the lighting of eight candles in the menorah pays tribute to the miracle of light.
When, in modern times, we feel that all is lost and that our personal temple – be it body, mind or soul – has been desecrated there is always the light of dedication, a miracle of benevolence, to renew us.
Kwanzaa – The Gift of Community
Kwanzaa, derived from “matunda ya kwanza” (“first fruits”) in Swahili, is a secular African-American holiday which celebrates family, community, and culture. It lasts seven days: December 26 — January 1. Every night the family gathers and someone lights one of the candles on the Kinara (candleholder) and one of the seven principles is discussed.
These seven principles, or Nguzo Saba, are values of African culture compiled by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at CSU, Long Beach. They are:
Unity (Umoja) – (oo-MO-jah) To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race
Self-determination (Kujichagulia) – (koo-gee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves
Collective Work and Responsibility (Ujima) – (oo-GEE-mah) To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together
Cooperative Economics (Ujamaa) – (oo-JAH-mah) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together
Purpose (Nia) – (nee-YAH) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness
Creativity (Kuumba) – (koo-OOM-bah) To do always as much as we can, in whatever way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it
Faith (Imani) – (ee-MAH-nee) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
These guiding principles shine a light on any community looking to build a foundation or maintain its presence. They would serve us well as a universal declaration of community as the greatest place to represent and benefit the best of humanity.
Pancha Ganapati — The Gift of Joy
Pancha Ganapati is a Hindu festival dedicated to the five-faced elephant God Ganesha. It is five days — December 21 through 25 — of gift-giving and merriments within the home. There is no need for a tree, wreaths, or Santa, for Lord Ganesha does it all in high style. An altar is created with sacred images, colors, and lights. During each of the five days the entire family focuses upon a different sadhana, or spiritual practice. These sadhanas allow celebrants to create a new beginning in their lives by making amends for mistakes made in the past year.
Day One: The sadhana for the first day is to create an atmosphere of love and peace among the immediate family. If strained relationships have arisen during the year, they make amends for misunderstandings, insults, and mental and emotional pain caused and suffered.
Day Two: The second day is devoted to creating an atmosphere of love and peace among neighbors, relatives and close friends, giving gifts and offering apologies to clear up any misunderstandings.
Day Three: On the third day the family works to create an atmosphere of love and peace among business associates, merchants and even the public. The sadhana today is to settle debts and disputes.
Day Four: The sadhana for day four is to call forth the vibration of joy and harmony that comes from music, art, drama and the dance as our universal story.
Day Five: The sadhana for the fifth day is to bring forth love and harmony within all the worlds. Because of sadhanas well performed during the first four days, everyone is now intensely aware of Ganesha’s grace and their love for Him is overflowing.
Wouldn’t your holidays feel a lot more joyful if you knew that you had given forgiveness or been forgiven of any misunderstanding or pain in relationships?
Christmas — The Gift of Love
Christmas is a Christian holiday celebrated on December 25 to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, the “anointed one.” Isaiah 9:6-7 foretells: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Known as the Light of the world, Jesus’ birth, life, and death are detailed in the four Gospels of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Christmas story shares the divine ideals that Jesus symbolized/symbolizes such as love, wisdom, beauty, joy, and power.
The great thirteen century mystic Meister Eckhart asked, “What is it to me that Christ was born of Mary 1300 years ago, if he no longer is born to me?” At this time in our history we can remember that the Light of Christ in every one of us is our highest, truest spiritual self.
During this Season of Light, find the flame of life that radiates within you, share it with another, and ignite the world with the One Light of Love and Peace… May peace be your journey.
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Through her ministry, “Doorway Into The Infinite,” Rev. Maria holds the vision for the transformation of the consciousness of planet earth. She is a spiritual change agent committed to … educating people in the process of healing … empowering the world one creative thought at a time … and experiencing peace in our lifetime. Her articles, essays, and meditations have been published in various magazines. She has self-published numerous books and manuals, and released two recordings of guided meditations. She’s created a variety of classes, workshops, and spiritual performance pieces, where she expresses her profound interest in spirituality and peace.
For more information, she can be reached at her website: www.be-the-change.com or at her e-mail: RevMariaS@aol.com.
Through her ministry, “Doorway Into The Infinite,” Rev. Maria holds the vision for the transformation of the consciousness of planet Earth. She is a spiritual change agent committed to … educating people in the process of healing … empowering the world one creative thought at a time … and experiencing peace in our lifetime. Her articles, essays, and meditations have been published in various magazines. She has self-published numerous books and manuals, and released two recordings of guided meditations. She’s created a variety of classes, workshops, and spiritual performance pieces, where she expresses her profound interest in spirituality and peace.