Saturday, December 21, 2013

Doubts and Dimness: Winter Solstice and the Feast Day of Saint Thomas

It's the time of year when people may be feeling the loss of light most intensely.  Many of us are busy and overextended.  We still have so much to do.  We're so tired.  It gets dark so early.  We remember that we once had interests that blazed forth, but now we feel boxed in, a dim spark barely keeping lit.

Maybe we just need to wait for light to come.  It's breaking through, even if we can't sense it. 

It's the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year.  But from here on out, we get an extra minute of light each day.  It may not feel like much, but it will add up quickly.

Maybe we need a different kind of Christmas, if not this year, then next.  Maybe we need a different tree, by a different shore.

I love what Beth says in this post:    "Paradoxically, as the trappings of Christmas -- both physical and emotional -- lighten, it feels like the season is regaining some of its mystery and joy that I remember from early childhood. Doing less opens up a space, and within that space, I find I can see much more. O magnum mysterium, we will sing on Sunday. Yes. One doesn't have to be literal about the Christian story to feel mystery at this time of year; the wheel of the seasons turns, and then stands still for a moment, inviting us to stop, too, and find the light hidden in the dark midwinter stillness."

This December is one of the first ones where I've felt content with the weather.  Is it because we had snow at Thanksgiving that I'm not yearning for snow now?  Am I, like Beth, older and calmer, willing to let go of my expectations of what should be and accept what is?  Will this be the year that I don't cut out cookies in shapes?   It may be.

Don't get me wrong.  I've done some holiday baking.  I had a cookie swap to attend on Wednesday.  I spent much of Wednesday eating nothing but cookies.  I need to get back to healthier eating.  These days of riotous living leave me swamped with doubts.  I was riding a wave, all sorts of waves (of good eating, of regular exercise, of healthy practices of all sorts), and now I'm in danger of being overcome.

Today is the feast day of Saint Thomas, most famous for his doubting.  It's not so strange that he doubted, after all.  He saw Jesus die an agonizing death.  Why would he believe his fellow disciples with their strange tales of seeing Christ back from the dead?  He must have thought they'd finally lost their collective minds, which wouldn't have been improbable, given the events of the week.  But then he got to stretch out his hands, right into the wounds of Jesus.

Thomas should serve as a hopeful tale for all of us in these darkest days of the year (at least in the Northern Hemisphere).  It can be hard to maintain our faith, especially in the face of the spirit-cracking grief of disappointed hopes.  We may yearn for evidence that's supported by our five senses.  We may get that evidence.  Or we may get to have a mystical experience, where we experience something that transcends the world we've always known, a gateway to a different plane.

Here is a poem for this feast day, one that I wrote years ago, in the time after Easter.  I was inspired by this blog post by Jan Richardson.  Her post made me think of those fancy Easter eggs that had a charming scene inside, and the interesting juxtaposition between those eggs and Jesus' open wound.

Into the Wound

Thomas approached his Savior’s bloodied side,
Everything for which he longed, yet so feared.
He felt the warm flesh and looked deep inside.
The vision left him changed and scarred and seared.

He saw a series of worlds in that wound.
He saw a future that could be so fine.
He saw a world of absence, so ill tuned.
He saw a table set with bread and wine.

He saw the start of all the universe
And staggered back, but Christ kept him steady.
“Wash your hands,” Christ said, his voice almost terse.
Christ knew the dangers for those unready.

Legend says Thomas walked to India;
What dream prompted him, we always wonder.
But you, too, could hike to outer Asia,
If you had the same vision to ponder.


1 comment:

inab said...

Amazing writing - and pictures...