Posted in Spiritual

The Sacredness of December: “Look to the Light” (Hanukkah), “The Magnificat” (Advent and Christmas) & Mevlûd-i Peygamberi (the Birth of the Prophet)

My soul magnifies the Lord ...


Look to the light, the light in the window,
The simple lit candles that shimmer and shine.
The message is clear as simple lit candles,
The passion for freedom is yours and is mine.
– Rabbi Dan Grossman

 December is a month rich in the holy days of the Abrahamic traditions. Jews celebrate Hanukkah, a commemoration of the Jewish reclamation of The Temple of Jerusalem in 164 B.C.E. Christians celebrate Advent – a period of waiting for the birth of Christ – followed by His birth, Christmas.  Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet in November or December depending on the lunar calendar. We do not need faith to appreciate the beautiful poems, music and artwork inspired by our religions, Abrahamic or others.


Look to the Light

Menorah
Menorah

In 164 B.C.E., the Syrians who ruled Israel took away the Jews’ right to practice their religion. Led by Judah Maccabee the Jews rebelled and succeeded in reclaiming their sovereignty and they rededicated The Temple of Jerusalem. The history of the celebration of Hanukkah has had some interesting turns in more recent times.

There’s a story of a young Polish soldier in then General George Washington’s army who held a solitary Hanukkah celebration on a cold night in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.  The soldier gently placed his family’s menorah in the snow and lighted the first of eight candles for the first night of Hanukkah. The man was perhaps a bit homesick and missing his family. He must have thought about how much they’d suffered over time from religious persecution. There were tears in his eyes when General Washington found him. Washington wondered what the young man was doing and why he was crying. The soldier told his general the story of Maccabee and the other Jews. It is said that Washington was heartened by the telling and moved on to battle and victory. The menorah is on now on display at the Smithsonian Museum.

Yet another story surfaces in 1993 Billings, Montana where a family was lighting their menorah one night. As is custom, they placed the lighted menorah in the front window of their home where it was stoned by anti-Semites, as were the homes of other Jewish families that same evening. The town newspaper printed dozens of menorahs.  Rev. Keith Torney, a minister of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, distributed them to all the Christians and the paper menorahs were placed in windows all over Billings as a sign of solidarity and of respect for the freedom to practice religion as one’s conscience dictates.

Look to the Light is a commemorative poem written by Rabbi Daniel Grossman and set to music by Meira Warshauer. Enjoy!  … but if you are viewing this from an email subscription, you’ll have to link through to the web/zine to view and hear it.


The Magnificat

The Ode of Theotokos (Song of the God Bearer)

It is only in the Gospel of Luke that we read of Mary’s recitation of this poem that harkens back to Jewish prophecy and is constructed in the traditional verse style of the times with mirroring and synonymous parallelism.

From the Book of Common Prayer

My soul doth magnify the Lord : and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded : the lowliness of his handmaiden.
For behold, from henceforth : all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath magnified me : and holy is his Name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him : throughout all generations.
He hath shewed strength with his arm : he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seat : and hath exalted the humble and meek.
He hath filled the hungry with good things : and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He remembering his mercy hath holden his servant Israel : as he promised to our forefathers, Abraham and his seed for ever.


The Prophet’s Nativity

A book explaining the meaning of the term Jashan e Eid Milad un Nabi
A book explaining the meaning of the phrase Jashan e Eid Milad un Nabi

One poem that celebrates Mawlid, the birth of the Prophet, is exceptionally sweet. It was written by the Turkish Süleyman Çelebi (also known as Süleyman Of Bursa) who died in 1429. You’ll note that in addition to honoring the Prophet Mohammad,  it honors three mothers: Asiya the mother of Moses, Mary the mother of Jesus and Amina the mother of the Prophet.

Mevlûd-i Peygamberi, Hymn of the Prophet’s Nativity

Some have said that of these charming three
One was Asiya of moonlike face,
One was Lady Mary without doubt,
And the third a houri beautiful.

Then these moonfaced three drew gently near
And they greeted me with kindness here;
Then they sat around me, and they gave
The good tidings of Muhammad’s birth;
Said to me: “A son like this your son
Has not come since God has made this world,
And the Mighty One did never grant
Such a lovely son as will be yours.

You have found great happiness,
O dear, 
For from you that virtuous one is born!
He that comes is King of Knowledge high,
Is the mine of gnosis and tawhid*
For the love of him the sky revolves,
Men and jinn are longing for his face.

This night is the night that he, so pure
Will suffuse the worlds with radiant light!
This night, earth becomes a Paradise,
This night God shows mercy to the world.
This night those with heart are filled with joy,
This night gives the lovers a new life.

Mercy for the worlds is Mustafa,
Sinners’ intercessors: Mustafa!

– Süleyman Of Bursa 

* monotheism

Compiled by Jamie Dedes; Photocredits: (1) © Jamie Dedes,The first illustration was created using a public domain photograph of The Magnificat (Le magnificat) by James Tissot; (2)Hanukkah Lamp, Lemberg (Lviv, Ukraine), 1867–72 from the collection of The Jewish Museum of New York under CC BY-SA 3.0; (3) Photograph of a book explaining the meaning of the phrase Jashan e Eid Milad un Nabi by Saudmujadid under CC BY-SA 4.0

Posted in Christianity, Meditation, Poems/Poetry, Spiritual Practice, Victoria C. Slotto

The Challenge of Light–Advent Reflection

The people walking in darkness
    have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
    a light has dawned.  Isaiah 9:2

Photo Credit: Mike Freisen
Photo Credit: Mike Freisen

The Challenge of Light

i.

advent is not about the coming

of a sweet baby.

it is not about sentimental,

trumped up emotion.

advent challenges us

to an adult acceptance

of the kingdom of god,

to social imperatives,

to self-forgetfulness,

to letting go,

to a deliberate emptiness.

ii.

we like to make the Christ

into a perpetual baby.

we can cuddle a baby,

a baby asks nothing of us.

the Christ is so much more demanding.

iii.

advent doesn’t just happen

the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

our lives our one huge advent.

our lives are about bringing light

into this dark world.

iv.

in advent and winter we wait for light.

do we forget it’s up to us

to be light in the darkness

of a world that is

confused

stumbling

blinded

afraid?

v.

it’s easy to get hung up

in religion,

in practice,

in institutional think.

it’s easy to feel complacent

because we go to church,

because we give money.

the litmus test

is giving of ourselves,

is embracing mystery.

advent is not just a passive waiting.

it allows that we are responsible

to be light-bearers.

– Victoria C. Slotto

© 2013, poem, Victoria Slotto, All rights reserved

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

2940013445222_p0_v1_s260x420VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~ is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012, is Victoria’s first novel. A second novel is in process. On Amazon and hot-off-the-press nonfiction is Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s ebooks (poetry and nonfiction) are free to Amazon Prime Members. Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Editor’s note: Congratulations, Victoria, on that the long awaited publication of print copies of Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012, Beautifully done.

Posted in Priscilla Galasso

Have Some Divinity

The premise is this: for each day in December, instead of counting down on an Advent calendar, I’m counting the free gifts we all get every day.  (to see the rest of the month’s gifts, visit my blog!) Today’s gift is divinity, but I don’t mean the candy.  I mean The Divine, The Sacred, The Holy and experiences of them.  Don’t we all have the opportunity to receive that every day?  If you look for it, will you find it?  I think so.

So, what is sacred?  How do you recognize the divine and holy?  In art, there’s always a halo or a sunbeam to give you a clue.  What about here on earth?

‘Namaste’ is the Sanskrit greeting recognizing the existence of another person and the divine spark in that person, with the hands pressed together in front of the heart chakra.  I think the divine spark exists in every living thing as the breath of life.  Every encounter with a living thing is an experience of the divine.  We hardly ever act like that is true, however.  But we could.  Native Americans and many African tribes have hunting rituals that celebrate the sacred exchange of life.  The hunted animal is divine, sacrificing itself for the life of the hunter, and the hunter shows a holy appreciation.  Often, when I look at macro photography of living things, flower stamens, insects, mosses, I am compelled to worship the divine in the detail.  Life is sacred and beautiful.  Looking closely and deeply is a way to practice recognizing that.

In a dualistic world view, the mundane and the divine are polar opposites.  One is worldly, one is sacred.  If this world were imbued with holiness, if God became incarnate and entered flesh in this world, those opposites would run together like watercolors.  Many cultures believe this is the truth about life.  The waters under the firmament and the waters above the firmament are separated in one telling of the creation story, but the Spirit of God was moving over all of the waters from the very beginning, even in that story.  The understanding that divinity is everywhere has inspired people all over the globe for centuries.  This place we inhabit is special; it’s valuable.  It’s all holy.  This is the beginning of respect for the Universe and everything in it.  Somewhere in Western history, that idea lost its power.  Earth and everything in it became base and fallen.  Good turned to bad and life turned to death.  I’m not sure if that new idea has been very helpful.  I rather think it hasn’t.  And I don’t think it has to be that way.  It’s an idea, after all.  So if it’s not a helpful idea, why support it?  How would you rather live?  In a fallen world or in a world where the sacred and divine can be found everywhere?  Just wondering out loud.  I’m not saying that one idea is right and the other wrong.  The glass is neither half full nor half empty.  It’s a glass, and there’s water in it.  The rest is conceptual.  Why argue?  Choose how to live with the glass and the water.   As for me and my house, “I choose happy.”  (One of Jim’s conclusive statements.)

I hope this gives you something to ponder for today.  If you like, you can add a scene of Edmund Pevensie in Narnia being asked by the White Witch what he craves.  “It is dull, Son of Adam, to drink without eating.  What would you like best to eat?”  “Turkish Delight, please your Majesty!” he responds.  What if he had said, “Divinity”?  Same story, nuanced.  I would like to taste the sacred in this world, and I believe it’s here.

– Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~ started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

Posted in Christianity, Essay, Jamie Dedes, Peace & Justice

THE TIPPING POINT: Good will from and toward women and men everywhere!

Nativité_de_CostaThis is simultaneously blogged on Rev. Terri Stewart’s blog and my own personal blog.

Today begins the first day of our Terri Stewart’s Advent event. There are many bloggers participating in this event. Each day of the Christian celebration of Advent will be sponsored by a different blogger who will post appropriately on his or her site. Their posts will also go up on Terri’s site and the kick-off is on Into the Bardo today.

If you follow Into the Bardo  regularly, you know that we share work here that is not necessarily religious but is reflective of diverse cultures and spiritual paths and representative of universal human values, however differently they might be expressed. This is a space where we hope you’ll delight in learning how much you have in common with “other” peoples.

We acknowledge that there are enormous theological differences and historical resentments that carve wedges among and within the traditions, but we believe that ultimately self-preservation, common sense, and human solidarity will empower connections and collaboration and overcome division and disorder. We work for the tipping point when compromise – an admittedly imperfect peace – will overcome war and respect for life will topple resentment. That may not happen in our time, but it has to start somewhere and sometime and this is our modest contribution toward an end for which diverse people the world over are working.

For those who are not Christian, Advent is the period of time leading up to the Nativity of Christ (Christmas). It is celebrated somewhat differently by different Christian sects and by Roman and Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox churches. I think the details of the celebrations are less important than the scriptural quote for the day …

James 4:1-3
1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? 2 You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures.

Indeed, where do the conflicts and disputes originate: in the cravings that make us restless within ourselves, in coveting things or situations we don’t have (and may not really need), and in not using right means for just ends? These are appropriate considerations as we approach the annual celebration of the “Prince of Peace,” a celebration which is in the end a call for compassion and understanding.

May our compassion have legs.

PEACE ON EARTH
The tipping point:
GOOD WILL FROM AND TOWARD WOMEN
AND MEN EVERYWHERE!

… and Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to those who are celebrating  …

Follow the entire Advent season
with Terri Stewart HERE.

… If you are so inclined, we would be grateful to have this post reblogged. Thank you! …

– Jamie Dedes

© 2013, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Pramzan via Wikipedia under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, 1.0 Generic license

Photo on 2012-09-19 at 20.00JAMIE DEDES ~ Poetry remains a gift in disability and medical retirement. It’s a compact thing that I can still manage. I am the founder and host of Into the Bardo, a spirited international collaborative of word-play, music, art and photography where our core team members function independently and yet with a remarkable synergy. They do everything. They are the stars. I have simply created a space in which to share.

For the past five years I’ve blogged at The Poet by Day, the journey in poem, formerly titled Musing by Moonlight (hence the url). Poetry is my spiritual practice.