Our longest night
Wednesday, December 21, 2022
One day is set apart when the earth leans away from the sun as far as she can go, and in the earth’s leaning we, who are living with grief can see with the outside world what we have been feeling for so long on the inside. Today marks the Winter Solstice. This day is called the shortest day. Known by-heart each year by many of us as the longest night. On this one day into night, the universe and each grieving heart seem to be woven together.
In the Native American tradition, this night marks the season of gathering together with family and friends. It was a time of leaning in and telling stories. No longer planting or hunting, this time of midwinter reminded many that it was also important to sit and listen. Time to share stories that their grandparents had passed down. Time to hear these stories as if for the first time. These were stories that needed time and space; stories told from the inside out.
And as we continue on this Advent journey, I am grateful for so many of my passed-down stories. Stories told by loved ones, and stories we continue to pass on to those coming after us. Stories of remembering that can make us laugh or cry or both at the same time. Stories that may feel thin at first, perhaps some of their details feel elusive, and then somehow come to life in their telling.
Again, this year, I am sensing nature’s universal compassion with the return of this Winter Solstice. Again, this year, I am so deeply grateful for our earth’s yearly marking of this longest night. I take comfort in its coming round again. In these journeying days, my tender heart has been overhearing echoes of loved ones gone. I’ve been remembering past Advent seasons shared with dear souls no longer here beside me. I am missing family members and friends who brought wisdom and insights, brought comfort and joy. With earth’s gentle nudge, tonight I plan to sit and listen.
In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” His words bring comfort on this darkest night. They speak of coming round again. His words speak to the not-knowing and somehow not-needing-to know. They speak to faith that holds time and is not bound by it. They speak to hope that knows our story held in stories long told with a peace beyond our understanding. These words speak to love that leans into the YES, the universe continues to sing with each sunrise. Day into night into day again. Now and not yet – held as one.
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"Time is different here," I heard my Mom's voice say a couple months after her death. Journeying through these Covid-19 days, remind me of the gift of those words. You are invited companion me on this 2020 Advent journey to Bethlehem, as we seek Emmanuel, God who promises always to be with us.