Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.
Tonight, Dec. 13, is the third night of our Advent Solstice Sun-Wheel Prayer Circle.
This working is intended for all — all faiths and philosophies. The Christian church calls it the Advent wreath, which was simply handed down from much older Pagan Advent celebrations.
If you are neither Pagan nor Christian, I urge you to participate anyway! Simply assign each candle a meaning that is important to your faith or world view (you need not even be religious!). You can find some suggestions here.
This is the prelude to a moment that has been celebrated since prehistoric times, by people of every culture. The dawning of the Winter Solstice and the re-birth of the Light is coming to all beings across the Northern Hemisphere, no matter what they believe about it!
Tonight’s Candle in the Christian Traditions
Each candle can be symbolic of principles important to Christianity. For many denominations, the first candle is the candle of Expectation or Hope. For some branches it is Prophecy. The second candle is frequently the one that represents the Bible, the knowledge handed down across the centuries, or else the sacred manger in Bethlehem.
With awareness and good faith, re-light your first two candles in order. Then you are ready for this evening’s new lighting.
Tonight’s third candle (almost always a rose-pink candle), is sometimes considered the Shepherd’s Candle, and represents the Joy of the impending birth and the exhortations sung by the angels for all to rejoice.
Consider, perhaps, where Joy is lacking in Christianity today. How would the true joy of your faith be a powerful balm for a world so deeply troubled? When you are ready, light the third candle, and let it, like the profound blessing that is the gift of this time, illuminate your faith in a powerful new way.
Welcoming the Elemental Guardians
If you have chosen to use the Elements as your template in this working, here are some suggestions for tonight’s ceremony.
Tonight, gather with your loved ones, or alone, around sunset. Ground and center yourself, or create sacred space in whatever way is right for your practice. Turn out the lights where you are, and have your wreath, candles and lighter ready.
Notice and be aware that all over the globe, as night’s shadow descends, there are now thousands of others, from every walk of life and spiritual tradition joined with you in your rite.
In the twilight, consider again (as you did on Nov. 29) the power, for good and for ill, associated with the Element of Air: knowledge, information, understanding, communication. Light the candle for East. With it, we can see, and know. With its spark, see the shadows of Air dissipate. With your own breath, words, and song bring light and healing to all in need of Air’s life-giving goodness.
Then, move to the next candle that you lit last week – the candle that represents the Element of Fire, the direction of South.
In what ways do the matters associated with this candle, when out of balance, create trouble in our world? And in what ways shall you again tonight send your prayers for healing? As you focus your call for Fire’s blessings, light this candle.
Hail to the Waters
This brings us now to the third candle, which we are lighting tonight for the first time. This candle is for West, the Element of Water.
Pagans know that Water is the Guardian of our emotions, intuition, empathy, compassion and is sacred to Autumn and the setting Sun.
Which means it is the candle that marks exactly where we are at this moment.
As we contemplate our unlit candle, we might consider the fears, distortions, and untruths that flow through our hearts and our world. How do our emotions, and especially the deliberate manipulation of our feelings, create suffering for our human family?
In harmony with the Christian attribution to this candle, we might consider the elusive nature of Joy or how the emphasis on the pursuit of happiness creates trouble when it is distorted.
And of course, there is the matter of the waters of our world.
Deepening Shadows: Water Is Life
The ongoing confrontations between Big Oil’s agenda and our First People’s tribal lands continue on. For years now, across our country, the Water Protectors have been engaged in peaceful protest to stop the construction of the pipelines that threaten the survival of their reservations.
And once again this year, many of us have endured another bout of frightening, devastating drought. The rains that usually cleanse our cities and lands, that feed our crops, that strengthen our forests, that provide home to countless habitats, failed in many places.
The parched, cracked Earth cried out; wildfires where there once were forests obliterated homes and farms.
For others, the rains were too much. Torrential and destructive, they dumped terrifying, unprecedented floods that swept away property and lives.
Meantime, thanks to global climate change and explosive population growth, access to safe drinking water is an endangered resource.
At more than $1 trillion each year, the U.N. and World Health Organization estimate water is the world’s third largest industry (just behind electricity and oil), and is already the most-traded product on Earth.
The rampant greed that is at the heart of so much suffering is very much focused on the commoditization of water. In developing countries around the world, giant corporations like Bechtel and Halliburton are buying up the local water sources and then selling it back at price-gouged rates to the impoverished residents who live there.
And don’t even get me started on the wickedness of the Nestlé corporation.
Which is why it was not surprising, yet still very ominous news that on Dec. 8, 2020, Wall Street officially began trading water futures as a commodity, in effect betting that investors can make a killing on it, as it becomes as valuable and rare as gold or oil.
The implications are dark indeed for a world parched by drought and climate crisis. The scramble of greedy speculators bidding to buy up the shrinking resources of life itself adds a terrible dimension to an already tragic scenario.
Did you know that only one percent of all the water on our planet is drinkable? The World Health Organization reports that about 1.1 billion people lack access to safe drinking water. That means – no access. Contaminated water is one of the biggest killers in the world, with young children most at risk.
As you consider these matters, honor the many feelings that flow through you. If this brings you anger and sorrow, give thanks, for you are alive and you care! If you do not feel despair at times, you are not paying attention, and dangerously out of touch.
Owning our pain for the world is absolutely necessary. It is our sorrow, the feelings of our heartbreak, that provide the fertile ground for healing and hope. Emotions motivate us to dare to act.
Without them, no change is likely.
And, as it happens, Water is the element that gives us that very gift of emotions. Another reason to honor, and actually feel what you feel.
Now pause. Breathe. You have let your emotions flow — now, with your breath, release them.
When you are ready, with clarity and compassion, light your candle. Let this light chase away the shadows that darken your heart.
Notice and give thanks for all the ups and downs of our emotions. They can be tumultuous at times and strangely prescient.
They open our hearts and sometimes break them, bringing cleansing tears and joyful laughter. What a sacred gift it is to feel our feelings, even when it hurts!
As you gaze upon this wondrous addition of light to the wreath before you, consider the life-giving blessings of Water.
In this year of horrors, where would we be if we could not wash our hands? This simple act, taught to us as children, has become one of the most powerful tools for combating the pandemic and saving lives, including our own.
And see in your mind’s eye the beautiful rains when they come gently, in balanced abundance. Send your blessings and prayers to the Defenders of the Waters across the continents, and all indigenous people who are on the front lines of protecting our sacred Waters from pollution and destruction.
Give thanks for the incredible gift of turning on a tap at your home, and having clean, pure, hot and cold water pour forth. Such luxury was beyond the imagination of gilded pharaohs and emperors of old!
And remember Mama Ocean in your thanksgiving – the Mother of us all, the ever-restless, changing, flowing source of all life on our blue planet.
You might call upon all the Water Goddesses you love, and give thanks to Them.
Know, too, that the river of tears and joy is a deep, ancient one that defines our humanity. It gives us the motivation and possibility of the true, deep, lasting transformation we so desperately need.
May its light heal the fear, the hurt, and all of our troubled waters.
Gaze now at your three dancing flames and call upon the powers of these Elements or Gifts of Spirit, to heal and bless.
Tonight, we have reached the tipping point. It is now truly clear that the birth of the shining Child of Promise, and the renewal of Life is on the way!
When you are at peace, and the time feels right, going backwards from Water, to Fire, to Air, gently extinguish your candles.