Samhain is a rich spiritual season, comprising a panoply of holy days that vibrate with psychological paradox and dare us to risk confronting our deepest fears, most violent demons – and greatest hopes. The winter solstice is a month away, one of the highest of high holy days. For the community of faith that calls itself Christian, we are in the last days of the old liturgical year, preparing to lean forward into the new one on the first Sunday of Advent (30 November this year). This means that if we practice lectio divina (the systematic reading of scripture) in our personal prayer or meditation life, we are immersed in apocalyptic literature, primarily from the book of Revelation. And it is giving a lot of us spiritual, if not physical, hives.
These texts about the end time are not easy reading – especially in a world that (unfortunately both for literature and for religion) includes the Left Behind series – which is about as inaccurate an interpretation of apocalyptic as it is possible to find married to really really really poor theology. [Not that I feel strongly about this or anything.] But as hard as apocalyptic may be to understand with all those graphic images of the moon dripping blood and the stars falling from the heavens, and earthly kingdoms imploding and wars abounding, it actually arises from an unshakeable foundation of hope. And it has a profoundly life-giving component to it, a demanding invitation that challenges us to own some personal responsibility not only for the now in which we live, but for the future toward which we look.
Apocalyptic is written in the unwavering belief that this creation (right here, right now, today, on this earth) is good. In fact, very good. The Creator intends nothing but health and joy for all creatures, as well as for the seemingly inanimate aspects of the universe that hold us in an environment of abundant wonder. Right under the surface of all those horrific visuals is not a violent hope of punishment (even for our enemies), but the conviction that however bad it all appears at the moment, the universe will be redeemed because the Holy One who is Perfect Love will not cease loving and healing (and inviting us to participate in loving and healing) until what now appears irrevocably shattered is once more whole.
The demanding invitation of this season is to choose. To choose this day whether to throw our weight on the side of reconciliation, redemption, love, grace, joy, and abundance. Or whether to continue to live as if our choice to “not know what we know” has no consequence. Are we willing to know what we know about goodness: dropping bombs on children is not good, feeding them is good; leaving the homeless to freeze to death on the street is not good, creating cultures of equity is good; genocide is not good, loving our enemy is good; ignoring the common good for personal profit is not good, sharing with generosity is good…and to act on what we know? Or do we prefer to anesthetize ourselves with illusion, and convince ourselves that we can separate ourselves from each other and from this earth with impunity?
Do we choose to be light in the darkness – especially the darkness of our own anger or despair or self-righteousness, or greed – allowing the light to reveal the way out of those life-denying behaviors? Do we choose to trust that the strength of our love will overcome our fear of not having enough, and of not being enough? Do we choose to remain connected, even when we have been hurt or betrayed or disrespected? What is the eternity in which we want to live? What is stopping us from building it right here, right now?
Here is a guided meditation to help you ponder your choices.
Close your eyes if you are comfortable doing that. Or you may prefer to use the flame of the candle as a focal point to help your mind be still. Become aware of your breathing and allow it to be slow and deep.
It is late at night and there is a knock on the door. Pause and allow your normal reaction to a knock late at night to move through you. Take a deep breath and recall the well-known words, “Knock and the door shall be opened.” Someone is knocking. Whoever the person is, they have heard that promise. How do you respond? Do you open the door or refuse to open it?
If you answer, “I do not know you,” the knocking stops and you hear footsteps walking away. Without judgment, allow yourself to reflect on what motivated you to turn the person away.
If you open the door, there is a person standing outside holding a torch. This may be someone you know well, someone you have met casually, someone you don’t recognize, or someone famous (currently alive or no longer alive except in this imagining.) Who is standing there? Are you surprised? Delighted? Relieved? Excited? Wary? Allow yourself to feel all of the emotions you are feeling in this moment.
The person says to you, “Oh, I wasn’t sure you were the one, but I see now that you are.”
Then he or she explains that the torch he or she is holding is the light of Holiness to be carried into the dark places, bringing hope and warmth to those who are lonely, abandoned, rejected, betrayed, abused, afraid, hopeless, unjustly accused, needy. The person tells you that it is the task of each soul who honors G-d by whatever name, to carry it in turn. She or he offers you the torch and you accept it.
As the flame passes from the person to you, you realize that it is not actually a wooden torch that is burning, but the flame is actually emerging from within you. It is your arm that is alight. The fire does not burn you because it is simply part of you made visible. The person warns you that it is only your intentional connection to Infinite Love and Life that will keep it alive, and it will stay alight only as long as you are using it to bring light where light is needed. The closer you can merge with that Love and Life, the brighter the flame will burn. How bright is the flame right now?
The person bows to you in blessing and walks away until he or she turns a corner and disappears from sight.
Where do you need to bring the torch first? Who in your life most needs this light right now? Close the door behind you and set off for that place or that person. As you travel to them, you will pass through this space and time.
The flame will not prevent you from doing the other things that comprise your life. It is invisible except to those who need to see it.
When you are ready, take 3 or 4 more deep breaths and then open your eyes gently and let yourself become centered in this time and place. Take some time to write or draw some reflections on the meditation, something that you can return to this week and consider again.
Then you may want to offer yourself through this prayer-benediction, as a reminder of what you have chosen.
Waken my spirit
with the drum of alert:
pulse of life,
pulse of awareness,
pulse of warning,
gather my feeling, my knowing, my yearning,
into the holy tempo of hope.
Rouse my heart to attention
so that my words and deeds
may be a clarion,
proclaiming and embodying the One Word
in which all that was and is and is to be
resonates in perfect harmony.
Let is be so.
Text © 2014, Andrea La Sonde Anastos
Photos © 2012, 2014 Immram Chara, LLC
NOTE: The photo of Canterbury Cathedral is available as a card or print from the Etsy shop during Samhain (either in the Samhain Landscape series or as an individual card (C07) by special order.) The Crown Chakra is a detail from a larger piece which includes the seven chakras, available for sale through Etsy.