7:45 a.m. on The Eleventh Day of Christmas
Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of God has risen upon you. Isaiah 60:1
How long does it take for you to see what’s right in front of you? Is our first perception of approaching light received by visions or by listening? If so, what is first felt or first heard in the order of a day? These questions always seem to stir within me as dawn approaches. These unanswerable notions literally awaken me before the dawn. As each dark night transitions into a new day, my heightened senses seem to shift in linear order: from feeling my way through the darkness, to hearing the first stirrings of the songbirds, to seeing the first glimmers of light on the horizon, to smelling what delights me, and finally in tasting what breaks my fast. A new day begins for me when I move my mindfulness from listening toward looking for the light. This is why I eagerly await the dawn of each new day. I am always surprised by the Light.
The hinge points of our days and nights are made known to us at dawn and dusk. Within the faith traditions of the indigenous cultures in all lands, these two times of the day are sacred. The Celts call this the “thin” times of our day when the veil of these holy mysteries is pulled back a bit and we experience glimpses of the eternal divine made manifest in all places and in all times. At dawn and at dusk, the limits of time itself lose power over us. Somehow, we stop what we’re doing and make time to watch everything change. We are free to gaze at the beginning and the ending of our days and nights, if only for a moment. This is why contemplative mystics, sheltering in place all around the world, are keeping watch. Collectively, their continual prayers order our days as we arise early with the dawn, pause for refreshment at noonday when the sun is overhead, and then stop our work at dusk in order to mostly sit with the flowing light in awed silence. At dawn, we arise and shine again for our light has come. At dusk, our candles are lit and our fires are stoked to guard against the darkness. For the glory of God we are One, and so we order our days and our nights as we pray without ceasing.
If you sit for a spell, you can begin to imagine this fragile Earth, our island home, in its orbit. If you orient your perspective from outside of our atmosphere, you begin to realize that no wall will ever be tall enough to divide us. We are One. From the perspective of a moon landing, we now see that Earth’s dawn and dusk are continually sweeping across all peoples in all lands. The Light is in continual motion. Our perceptions of the limits of dawn and dusk are relative to where we are planted and yet the hinge points of our days are portals to our connectivity which is equitably available to all, each at our specifically appointed hour.
As you begin to visualize this as an energized circle of loving light, which when viewed from one side is the approaching dawn and from the other side is ebbing dusk, you begin to understand that our morning and evening prayers ring out from either side of the circle. They aren’t all that much different from place to place nor from generation to generation. These age-old prayers have never stopped being sung throughout time. With each dawning we begin again. Morning and evening prayers are simultaneously being offered without ceasing by mystics from within an endless circle of light which continually encircles and spins toward the edges of our existence. All prayers of Love move with this Light. As your own listening deepens, your light also widens into love for those who are on the other side of the light.
As one lives and moves closer to the poles of our planet, the length of our days and nights within each season vary dramatically. When I arise and look forward to the dawning of a summer day in Maine, I first listen into the darkness for the songbirds as they awaken in the treetops. Perched up higher than the rest of us, they are the first to see the light of a new day. It’s been said that it’s always darkest before dawn, but it is not quiet! Since my wooded perch is in Maine too, my listening is made much easier by the fact that I keep my screened windows open upstairs for the whole summer. By the midsummer’s solstice I can hear the birds start their songs at 3:30 a.m. and within half an hour what we call First Light appears on the eastern horizon.
The approaching dawn is heard before it is ever seen. Conversely, on the shortest day of the year, we all notice that the sun is setting at 3:30 p.m. Some folks love that, some despise it. I love it. In between times, as the seasons turn, the sun seems to be making its way across the sky each day on a slightly different trajectory, from low on the horizon to high in the sky and back again. To put it simply, as it is with love, the light of our lives is always on the move. So is the lunar cycle, predictably so, as it reflects the hidden source of our light. In turn, the ever-turning tides of the sea are reliably restless, as its waters are moved by the moon’s wake through our orbit. When pondering our vistas, we must also add in the fluidity of the firmament, as all light is refracted by the continual surge of water moving between salty seas and a sky filled with crystals riding on the wind. Often along the coast, there is no separation between the firmament and the sea, it’s all water and light and wind in motion. It’s as though we live in a vast hall of an infinite number of mirrors. We can only see what we can see, moment by moment, as our days ebb and flow.
And so we arrive upon this morning, gazing at Little River’s reflection. The calm waters at high tide are mirroring the dawn. For the glory of God, it is a sight to behold, it’ll never stay the same. I never tire of keeping watch for the movement of light. The Light is never extinguished and yet it is often hidden from our sight. Like the light we are always in motion, yet we can find our still point on the fiery edges of time. Rejoice for your light has come and the glory of God has risen upon you. Encircled by Light, you are Love.
Love is our Light, but first, Light.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.
and so it goes, round and round,
For further pondering:
Sunrise and Sunset in East Boothbay