Shared Spring Celebrations

YellowFlowers

Contributed by Board Member, the Rev. Sarah Person

It is spring: deliverance from the quiet darkness of winter and the return of green and the reaching toward the sun.  In our northern climes, spring time is crowded with meaning and rich with symbols and rituals that have been passed down to us like a spiritual DNA.   This season is a true inter-religious, inter-cultural feast!

From time immemorial we have marked the last full moon before the equinox and spring itself and regaled ourselves with bright colors, eggs, hares, particular flowers, bonfires, and dances.

The same lilies and hyacinths that decorate Christian altars on Easter Sunday, are assembled for Ba Hai celebrations of No Ruz.   Eggs appear on the Jewish Seder plate, and in Easter egg hunts.

The Hindu Festival Holi at this time of year is the festival of love, or the festival of colors.  People don’t decorate eggs; they decorate each other with bright powdered colors as they dance in the streets.  It is a time to play, and forgive and to heal.

We all share traditions based on fertility and new growth, renewal and redemption.  We remind one another of our deliverance from evil, from slavery, from death itself.   We embrace the second chance at life and the effervescent joy of living even the short spans allotted to us.

Happy Spring, friends, Happy Spring

 

Jewish Spiritual Practice

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From board member Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath

In Rabbi Rifat Sonsino’s book, 6 Jewish Paths: A Rationalist Looks at Spirituality (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2000), his guiding text comes from the Babylonian Talmud tractate, Berakhot (Blessings), page 63a:

Bar Kapparah expounded: Which is the brief biblical passage upon which all the basic principles of the Torah depend? “In all your ways, know the divine” – Proverbs 3:6

The book’s first chapter “Spirituality – What Is It?” ends with a brief story:

Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk once asked his students, “Where does God dwell?” Thinking the answer obvious, one of them said, “God dwells everywhere!” “No,” said the Rabbi, “God dwells wherever we let God in.” Each person must do this according to his or her own personal needs and disposition.

Rabbi Sonsino then devotes a chapter to each of the six paths: (1) acts of transcendence, (2) study, (3) prayer, (4) meditation, (5) ritual and (6) relationship and good deeds. These paths encompass a variety of spiritual practices – some solitary and many communal.

Sonsino’s summary chapter “Finding Your Spiritual Path” reflects the Exodus 24:7 verse where the people Israel stand at the foot of Mount Sinai, affirming their acceptance of the Covenant, saying together, “na’aseh v’nishmah” – “we will do and we will hear.”

Our rabbis and sages throughout the generations have taught from this Torah verse that doing comes before understanding, before “hearing.”

This is the way of spiritual practices.  It is called “practice” because that’s what you’re doing, you’re practicing. And, you’re practicing in order to be able to practice more deeply and fully, not because there is some end point or some point of perfection.  Each practice is a unit in and of itself.  It may inform future moments, give you greater understanding, allow you to do more, but it is what it was in its own time. Each practice provides an opening to “know the divine” in all your ways and to do and then hear and do and hear, throughout all the days of your life.

Chazak, chazak v’nitchazeik – May you go from strength to strength, and may we all be strengthened.

More information here:

Talmud: http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/talmud-101/ )

A more traditional translation is “in all your ways acknowledge Him”

Rabbi Menahem Mendel of Kotzk http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/mendel.html

Torah http://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/the-torah/

Holy Week Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

In the late 4th century CE, a Spanish nun by the name of Egeria made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and described what she saw to her sister nuns. The pilgrimage industry had grown substantially in the previous 50 years or so since Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine had arrived in the Holy Land, determined to find the sites where the stories about Jesus had occurred. Once found, Helena worked to erect churches on those sites, and those Christians who had sufficient resources, both in time and money, could experience what it must have been like to walk with Jesus during his earthly ministry.

It is not surprising that during the week before Easter, there were rituals at the various sites associated with the Jesus’ last days on earth. The week began on the Saturday of the weekend before Easter, with the remembrance in Bethany of the day that Jesus rested with his friends. On the Sunday before Easter Sunday, there was a re-enactment of Jesus triumphant procession into Jerusalem, greeted by people bearing palm branches. On Thursday, the congregation gathered in the cave where Jesus met with his friends and kept vigil all night. On Friday, the congregation gathered to kiss the wood of the true cross (which Helena also discovered), and from the sixth to the ninth hours, lessons were read, hymns sung, and the congregation mourned. On Saturday, a paschal (Easter) vigil was held.

While those who were able to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for Easter got the benefit of walking through the events of Jesus’ last days, most Christians would never be able to make the trip. So, many of the rituals that were originally celebrated in Jerusalem at the holy sites were taken back to local parish churches. In that way, all Christians were able to make this sacred pilgrimage. These services became basis for Holy Week observances, and are still observed, much the same way, 2000 years later.

Celebrating Ostara

from our board member, The Rev. Tanya April-Trzeciak

Ostara is the Latin name for the Saxon spring goddess, Eostre. Her counterpart in ancient Greece was Eros, also called Aurora. The vernal equinox is a time of balance when day and night are equal. It is a day to celebrate both the earth and the sun. Our ancestors included the symbolic union of the god and goddess in their rituals and honored the balance of all things; male and female, spiritual and physical. In Celtic Cornwall and Wales, Ostara was called Lady Day and celebrated the return of the goddess after her winter hibernation.

In the maiden-mother-crone cycle of the goddess and the season, the maiden phase is now unfolding as the earth renews herself. Signs of renewing life can be seen everywhere as snowdrops and crocuses emerge and trees come into leaf. The season brings freshness into our lives and new perspectives as we shed heavy winter clothes and feel the warmth of the sun on our bodies.

This is the time of spring’s return. The seed time, the joyful time, the time when life bursts from the womb of the earth breaking the shackles of winter. The time of balance when night and day, light and dark, are equal. Now is the time when the Prince of Light, born of the winter solstice, meets the Dark Maiden, who returns from the underworld. As they dance, flowers appear and warm sunlight makes the earth green.

Cranberry Circle CUUPS celebrates Ostara by performing a seed blessing and an indoor planting ritual. We decorate eggs after our ritual and consecrate them to the Goddess of Spring and the ever-returning God of the Sun. “New life lies within this egg as new life enters the soil. Let those who seek life find it.” Our altar is decorated with all the symbols of spring fertility…eggs, rabbits, flowers and seeds.

Cranberry Circle Covenant of Unitarian Universalists (CUUPS) will be celebrating Ostara on March 21 in the church hall at 7:00 P.M. of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro, MA 25 S. Main St. Middleboro. ALL ARE WELCOME.

Setting Our Faces Towards Jerusalem: A Lenten Quiet Evening

CGCSP Soughers Setting Our Faces Towards Jerusalem

Come and join us for an evening of quiet and reflection. From early Christian times, Holy Week has been a major time of pilgrimage. As Christians prepare for the holiest week of the year, come and prepare yourself to journey with Jesus toward Jerusalem.

We will begin at 6:00 with a soup supper and end by 9:30. Come for all of it or any part. Meditations will be offered, and feel free to bring any quiet activity that will assist you in your own preparation.

From the Director

Welcome to Common Ground: Center for Spiritual Practice

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Humans have a need to have rituals in their lives to mark transitions and to create meaning. The earliest humans probably sat around campfires asking questions about why things happen the way that they do, and very early hominid burials show the presence of objects with the bodies, indicating some form of burial rituals. Rituals and practices are a part of every human culture, although the type of practice and the meaning associated with the practice are unique to their own context. Even those faiths that are ostensibly found world-wide have significant differences in beliefs, rituals, and practices in different areas. What is constant is the need for some type of practice.

Human beings are embodied creatures. What we think is important, but what our bodies do are also important. Humans have body knowledge, knowledge that can only be obtained through actual practice. When I was teaching my sons to drive, it was clear that the knowledge associated with driving was embodied knowledge. Although they had the theory about driving a car before they ever got behind the steering wheel, that theoretical knowledge was only useful when combined with the embodied knowledge that they gained through the practice of driving. The practice was informed by their intellectual knowledge, but in the end, the embodied knowledge helped them to really understand the intellectual. In humans, these two types of knowing work together.

This need for both intellectual and embodied knowledge is important in the spiritual life. We often begin a practice because it fits with our intellectual understanding, but practice is not only necessary for deeply understanding the spiritual life− but that practice will also, in the long term, not only illuminate our intellectual knowledge, but also shape our embodied lives.

Common Ground: Center for Spiritual Practice was begun by a group of people who had come to appreciate the importance of practice in the spiritual life. We do not all come from one religion or faith tradition. In fact, some of us have also been deeply affected by spiritual practices from outside our primary spiritual communities. We hope to provide a variety of programs to nurture people’s spiritual practices. We hope that people will come to learn how to deepen the practices of their own spiritual traditions, to explore new spiritual practices, and final to learn about the practices of other traditions in a spirit of openness. We wish to welcome all who want to explore how practice might allow them to deepen their own spiritual journeys.

Hospitality is at the core of who we are and what we do. Come practice with us!

The Rev. Tara Soughers, PhD