Contributed by the Rev. Dr. Richard Bardusch
It is during the month of December that we have the shortest days in the year. December also brings about the end of the calendar year, the hibernation of much of life, and the end of our holiday season. In many ways December can be thought of as an ending month. It is as if the light is going out, and in a literal way, it is. That can be sad.
But for Christians December also brings beginnings. It is the beginning of the new liturgical year, it brings the beginning of the calendar year, and the beginning of days getting longer, and literally the increase of light. It brings many fresh starts. That can be joyous.
There is no ending without a beginning and no beginning without an ending. Which decides for you who you will be: the endings or the beginnings? It is as simple as that. We get to choose.
The choice is not about choosing one set of facts over another. The light does decrease and the light does increase in the month of December. Both statements are true. Our choice is about with which one we will align ourselves. Will we be people of increasing light or decreasing light?
In many ways it is like the Native American story about the two wolves inside each person. One is a wolf of anger and the other is a wolf of peace. Which one will we feed? The one that we decide to feed is the one that we will become. As December unfolds I invite you to make a choice. Choose to be people of light instead of darkness.
Christ was born in the darkest month that the light might shine even more brightly. He asks us to choose. Which side will we be on? I choose light and new beginnings.
From board member The Rev. Edward M. Cardoza
The days between spring and summer always seem to be a challenge for me in prayer. I find myself wanting to be outside after having been cooped up all winter—sadly though not every day allows for this! This winter seems to have presented more cold wintery days after the spring equinox, than before it. So I have found myself finding that room in my house or that corner in my place of prayer that gets the most light. I have begun setting up my morning or evening meditation in each of these spots with a bit more intentionality—choosing a time each day, and doing my best to show up.
At home, this special place is a tiny East facing window. In the morning light, the window comes alive with pinks, blues and vibrant bursts of orange. I’ve used this powerful display of nature’s making to pray with the play of light. As the light changes in intensity and color—I pull myself closer into silence and awe. Any moment–where I find myself distracted or being pulled into the busyness of the day before me—I return to the light outside. I ask for grounding, for peace and for deep silence to surround me. I remind myself of the prayer by John O’Donohue entitled “Morning Offering” in which he prays:
I place on the altar of dawn:
The quiet loyalty of breath,
The tent of thought where I shelter,
Wave of desire I am shore to
And all beauty drawn to the eye.
At my place of ministry, this special place is a West facing set of stained glass windows. The light panels have vibrant colors and modern cut glass—with a light purple background. I’ve found the perfect corner—and perfectly worn chair—that seems to hold my body without an ounce of discomfort. The play of light in the evening is softer—perhaps even quieter and somber. I ask for reflection, for forgiveness and for clarity. It’s my own version of an Ignatian Examen—an opportunity to bring to prayer the challenges, hardships, joys and worries of the day. A chance to voice what went well and what didn’t.
It’s a grace to mark the start and the end of the day like this. When our light shifts—and gives us longer days—it only seems to make sense to immerse ourselves in its playfulness. In drawing near, I always find something old spoken again or something new emerging from within. In a few weeks, I will be outside—until then, I am becoming okay with this new approach to prayer.