Time of Turning

The old Celts used to consider the Autumn feast of Samhein to be a time of the “thinning of the veil” between the living and the dead.  The Church transformed this into the feasts of All Saints/All Souls, which continue to be underappreciated by most Christians in North America, suffering as we do under the commodified shadow of Halloween…

For Jews, last month’s feast of Simcha Torah represents the end/beginning of the lectionary cycle, and involves beautiful rituals of ceremonially rolling the Torah scroll back to the start, and dancing around the sacred stories.  We Christians should have such liturgy…

Paying attention to these two temporal watersheds helps me prepare for the church’s time of turning into the new liturgical year at Advent.   I am always mindful that this is the “eschatological season,” in which our lectionary readings speak of the end of the world, in order to make space for the coming of the new one.  The Latin futurum means the future we build from the present; but adventus means the future that comes to us as a surprise, typically in a way that suberts our managerial presumptions.  Such as messiah coming as a political refugee, a homeless baby in a feed trough…

Two things represent the yin and yang of this year’s turning time for me.  The yin is the memory of the four Christian Peacemaker Teams brother who were kidnapped this time two years ago in Iraq.  Their captivity made Advent that year one of intense vigiling in our household, pleading for their lives, and reflecting hard on our own responsibilities to resist this war.  Tom Fox, a Quaker from Virginia, didn’t make it out, thus becoming one of our rare First World martyrs for the gospel.  Presente!  I just received yesterday a long missive from one of the survivors, Canadian Jim Loney, who continues to struggle to make sense of his four months in captivity.  May we not forget for one moment, in our introspective musings, that the war rages on, chewing up the lives of the living and the dead.

The yang is this morning’s full moon, setting in the west at dawn, casting the Santa Ynez mountains in the softest of blacks.  Outside the window are two native toyon bushes we just planted.  The toyon (heteromeles arbutifulia) is called here the “Solstice plant,” because it blooms at the Summer solstice and bears bright red berries at the Winter solstice.  Plants know the time of turning better than we do. 

Despite the more immediate discomfort of my somatic “turning” since major surgery three weeks ago, and despite the frustration of a slow-paced season of recovery, I seek to focus on these deeper turnings of planet and spirit.  Thanks, Glenn, for the invite to participate in this circle of reflection.  –Ched Myers

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One Response to Time of Turning

  1. crookedshore says:

    Hey Ched, several of us over here in the much wetter and cold Northern Ireland are remembering you as you recover from surgery. I hope that this practice may contribute something to the healing.

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