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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Signifying Seasons

>I'll begin by quoting from another blogger--this blog inspired what I'm writing today:
But, even these days, from my profoundly changed perspective, I think that my old [pagan] friends get it right in some ways. One of those ways is their acknowledgment that, as enfleshed creatures on this planet, we live according to the rhythm of days and months and seasons. Many Christians, especially spiritual children of the Reformation, seem so terrified by anything even remotely capable of suggesting pantheism that any talk of integrating the rhythms of earthly existence into our spiritual lives sounds dangerously syncretic...

Another way they get it right, I think, is in recognizing the power of mindful, integrative, full-participation ritual. The first days in August are a time, on the pagan calendar, to simultaneously celebrate the firstfruits of the harvest and to recognize the death that is necessary to sustain life...You spend time thinking about the things in your life that have borne good fruit, that should be celebrated and nurtured, as well the plans and activities and attitudes in your life that haven't been fruitful, that shouldn't be held onto into the darkening of the year, that need to be let go of now; you create ritual actions that illustrate this process of personal inventory.

With all that in mind, my question to readers: What are your ideas for ritually marking the time during the long Pentecost season in a Christocentric, cruciform manner that also acknowledges the world as we experience it (and as Jesus experienced it) in creative, evocative ways? How do we keep the green in the green and growing season, and help it bear more fruit in our individual and corporate lives?
Signifying Seasons

Great blog topic! I resonate particularly to the paragraph beginning "Another way they get it right..." and need to respond to the idea of marking this l-o-n-g Pentecost season (another segment of so-called Ordinary Time, in itself a challenging designation) in something resembling cruciform style while acknowledging my experiences in the world. These days I'm full of turmoil and its closest kin, and wondering whether to post this on my theology blog or on my testimony site... but initially it's going on this far by faith.

We've arrived at autumnal equinox eve, and with the falling season so near on this year 2005's horizon, I need to consider the fruits of the growing and harvesting seasons immediately past and assess what does not merit carrying forward from spring and summer 2005 and what else I truly need to rid myself of as part of the challenge of journeying ahead into fall and then winter, which both hold promise as creative, productive times--at least according to my past experience! The death that is necessary to sustain life (and to produce new life).

From my undergrad years at Boston University, and the years immediately following, when I served in the Lutheran Church in America as a musician, I've kept fresh memories of my early journeys through the liturgical year with its colors, symbols, and texts; those rituals excited me, helped engrave meanings and started shaping an actual understanding of the Heilsgeschichte into my life and purpose.

But creating my own "ritual actions" illustrating my own inventory process, and in Christocentric form!? God calls us to live as servants, to live exactly the kind of life for others Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated. Especially now, I'm exquisitely conscious of God's calling us to total stewardship, which includes living in response to the level of our gifts and education--of course! Remember the liturgical year's older designations and observations: from the first word for the introit for those Sundays, "Gaudete," rejoice for the third Sunday of Advent and "Laetare," which also means rejoice, for the fourth Sunday in Lent. Although every Sunday is considered a celebration of Easter's risen glory and joy (with each Sunday during the season of Lent consequently being "in" but not "of" Lent), the liturgies and lections for Advent 3 and Lent 4 focus on measured exultation at the midpoint of somewhat somber seasons. Ages ago, at a women-only Bible study that met at my home every Monday evening, I suggested "people have seasons," and though the concept hardly is originally mine, the entire group immediately responded in agreement. Like the Church, people have major seasons and shorter seasons within those greater, more expansive and more readily recognizable seasons.

Differentiating seasons in what some might consider a not-religious manner, just like the Church I ritually go with changes of clothing colors and sometimes fabrics, though not always in a conventional what's-current-in-local-retail-establishments way. I love all kinds of colors and their permutations, from natural to pale through pastels and brights to jewels and sometimes even darker hues, and typically I alternate between deciding this is a day for intense colors or today asks for pale or desert tints or whatevers, based both upon my life's ambience and the ambient weather. Erik Erikson spoke about "the furniture of self," and said to lose the sum of our belongings, our material possessions is to lose evidence of who we are! Thinking again about Katrina and now Rita in that context...but I'm also imaging the physical aspects of our lives such as food, clothing and decorative home textiles, furniture, and wall d├ęcor as accoutrements reflecting our inner selves.

From one of my old Commonplace Books and posted in a more-or-less recent blog:

Body Image, where:
  • body,
  • mind,
  • psyche,
  • spirit and
  • culture
converge. Its impact reverberates in all areas of life:
  • mental,
  • physical,
  • emotional and
  • spiritual.

What I truly need to get rid of? These days I only want to be able to embrace the community of faith and the world outside the church with the gifts I'd started preparing for them so long ago, but I know I need to give up some of my feelings of pain, loss and devastation...

Before we fully can acknowledge the losses and freely face the future, we human creatures typically need in our "possession" (I considered that word carefully before writing it down) something to take the place of whatever we've lost, but I haven't yet received the restitutions I knew would be coming my way! Here's another quote:
"...a free future must begin with the right to talk freely about the past."

--George F. Will, quoted in [print, of course!] Newsweek, June 19, 1989, page 72.
Talking about the past? I've been doing that--writing and theologizing about it, too! A Christocentric or Christ-centered observance and recognition needs to include the vertical upreach and the horizontal outreach of the cross, but exactly how? I need to trash my imagined self-reliance and fall back upon God's gracious mercies and provisions, and again fall back into community. Recently I've been listening a lot to a song by Darrell Evans:

from Darrell Evans' CD, Freedom:
Your Love Is Extravagant

Your love is extravagant
Your friendship intimate
I find I'm moving to the rhythms of your grace
Your fragrance is intoxicating in our secret place

Your love is extravagant
Spread wide in the arms of Christ
Is the love that covers sin
No greater love have I ever known
You considered me a friend
capture my heart again
Paul Tillich suggested "sin" and "asunder" come from the same origin. What seems like forever I've been feeling and living too, too asunder and broken-off from familiar community and from the work that gave my life meaning and rooted my everyday's rhythms. My grief remains much too heavy for my body to bear. After more than a decade of reaching out in friendship and making the initial overture in terms of trying to get musical opportunities and plain old social friendships, where do I turn now? The love of Jesus Christ, found - and maybe even experienced - in Christian community is love that can cover pain and span distances of almost every type.

Wait! This is supposed to be about making a new ritual process for my own life, but I've been rambling on about liturgy, loneliness, Church, churches and aloneness. On my theology blog I've written about the liminal, threshold events, rituals and liturgies in our individual lives and in the Church, the principal one being baptism. I'll confidently quote my insisting:
Feeling rootless is part of the nature and reality of living the gospel; exactly like the Israelites of the Exodus, in Jesus Christ we live in the precariousness of nomadic, unsettled existence, daily undergoing baptism's departure from that old life and entrance into the new, each day recalling and reliving the perilous and risk-filled underwater moment in that watery font of death that at the same time is sustaining womb of new life, the fragile instant in which we need totally to trust the baptizer, who represents God, the One Who really baptizes.

The early church baptized in the flowing water of a river: just as every life moment is different, you can't step into the same river more than once! Living baptized means balanced on the threshold between our old lives of slavery to sin and self and our new lives of Eastered freedom for others, and living baptized means some times we also fleetingly experience the fullness of gospeled community. Many times I've pointed out for Israel the River Jordan had been the barrier separating them from the Promised Land and then became the boundary and border of their Promise Landed lives. Likewise, for us, baptism keeps defining us as different from those outside the community of the church at the same time baptism is an event that counts us into the covenanted people of God of all generations. Paul addresses his letter to the Corinthian Church "...together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours! Wherever we go we can find an assembly of Christians who call Jesus Lord, so we always can continue journeying together.
Cruciform ritual? Acknowledging and emphasizing both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of the cross? My only answer for this evening is first, to keep on keeping on centering and immersing myself in the wisdom of the Church's worship, hymns and liturgical texts, which connect horizontally to the contemporary churches world-wide and connect vertically to the expressions of the Church throughout history; to keep on keeping on the scary reaching out to others, and to keep on keeping on grounding myself in constant prayer of every kind. May we all live under the cross, living baptized as person for others in Jesus Christ!

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