Our Mother must return to balance….
Our Mother is out of balance. The world cannot continue like this. There is a new world coming. The old is passing away. Our Mother must return to balance. – Mayan spiritual leader, Chichicastenango, Guatemala, July 2009
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. – The Apocalpyse of John, 21:1
We had all seen the movie with John Cussack complete with the 21st CE techno-marvel version of Noah’s Ark. The world was going to end in cataclysmic disaster and only the American techno-wizard Noahs, a few select animals and, of course, their obligatory military rulers would survive. A new world would emerge from the ruins of the old and the chosen people – Americans, of course - would now rebuild this new earth under its new heaven.
The Mayan spiritual leader had seen the film, too. And she smiled when she told us, “Yes, the world is going to end as we know it. But not like Hollywood has told you.” She continued, “Our Mother is out of balance. The world cannot continue like this. There is a new world coming. The old is passing away. Our Mother must return to balance.” When pressed about details (Would Florida go under water? Would California fracture off the San Andreas Fault and slip into the Pacific? Will the magnetic poles reverse?) she simply smiled and said, “You will see.”
We sat largely in silence on the microbus as we returned from the Mayan spiritual service in the woodlands not far from Chichicastenango in the Mayan Highlands of Guatemala. There we had observed the ritual building of the fire, the systematic placement of candles made of red, white, black and green waxes into the flames as well as various aromatic leaves and branches. We had watched this moving liturgy complete with periodic explanation of what was being done and said. And we had joined in the final prayers for Pachamama, the Mother earth, all of her life forms and for an awareness of the connection of our own human life form to the matrix of life in which we live, move and have our being.
It had been a deeply spiritual afternoon. And it left understandings that would continue to inform my life long after I had returned from Guatemala. Indeed, many of these very same words would be repeated to me almost verbatim by Amayra descendants of the Inca in Bolivia the very next summer.
A Day of Remembrances
On the morning of December 21, 2012, I found myself suddenly awake at 5:00 AM, unable to return to sleep. The morning’s news on my iPad was full of hype about the end of the world and the hysteria – not to mention the parties – that attended it. But in the back of my mind, something was telling me that this shortest day of the year, this end of one solar revolution and beginning of the next, should be marked by something more than hype.
In my own life history this was already a special day for me. My only brother was born a year after me on this day. St. Marge, our loving mother, remembered that day as “the coldest day of 1954 in Ft. Myers, Florida” (in contrast with September 1 of the previous year, “the hottest day of 1953” on which I had been born across the state in West Palm Beach). I have always felt sorry for birthday impaired folks like my brother whose birthdays often get ignored in the hysteria of the great consumerist orgy to which Christmas has largely devolved. So I make a special effort to remember the annual feast day of my brother’s nativity with a present and a card if not dinner and a party.
December 21 is also the day I was ordained into the Episcopal Church as transitional deacon in my home parish of St. Philips, San Jose, CA. The Gospel was read in five languages that night, an honor song was sung to me by an elder member of our American Indian congregation and our bishop brought my then-partner, now-husband Andy to stand with me in front of our parish for a standing ovation of thanks for his role in my getting to that place. The lessons for the Feast of (Doubting) Thomas the Apostle used that night were appropriate for new deacons. It was a glorious evening in the St. Philips’ tradition.
I am also keenly aware that solstices have always been solemn occasions for my Celtic ancestors. I thought back to the incredible spiritual power I had experience at Stonehenge during my visit in 1983. This morning the descendants of faithful people who had long gathered amidst the still-standing stones on that desolate hillside – some no doubt my own distant relatives - would gather once again to watch the sun rise between the upright megaliths.
One door closes, another opens…
When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us. – Alexander Graham Bell
With all of those thoughts rumbling around my head at 5:00 AM, it suddenly dawned on me that a day like this should be remembered with intentionality and celebrated. And so I searched the internet for any observances of the solstice in Orlando. To my surprise, there was such an observance at a local independent coffee shop just down the street. I quickly rose, showered and headed out into what was a very cold morning for Central Florida.
The observance began at 5:30 in an open lot adjacent to the coffee house. A fire blazed in the center of the lot and blankets and chairs had been mercifully provided. The fire lent some merciful if modest warmth against the fierce northwest wind. Periodically a shower of sparks would whirl out of the fire making it impossible to sit too close. The back side of this cold front was blowing away the near summer weather of the previous week and reminding us that this was, after all, the first day of Winter even here in Central Florida.
The organizer of the event began by asking the 30 people gathered to voice their intentions for the observance (and thus of the new year, the new era). Most offered the expectable prayers one might expect in such a gathering: peace, new ways of being human, a new awareness of Mother Earth. While I shared their concerns, my own intentions, which remained in the silence of my heart, were much immediate: to find the new locus for my life calling where I could devote my remaining life energies to something that mattered. One door was closing in my life. Where did the new door lie? How could my life make a difference?
“To what are you calling me now, O Holy One?”
And so we lapsed into silence awaiting the rising of the sun at 6:11 AM. Our officiant had asked us to note the irony of being intentionally still and silent in a world of constant noise, motion and distraction, a world that was busily rousing from its slumber and coming to life all around us. And so I sat in silence, my focus on my breathing interspersed with awareness of the vibrant colors in the sky overhead, the erratic and swift movements of flocks of birds joyously singing the new day into being and the sounds of rumbling school buses enroute to the nearby elementary. All the while, a very cold north wind whistled in my ears beneath the hood of my sweatshirt.
The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando
If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
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