The Light That Shines in the Darkness

The season of Advent coincides with the winter solstice. Christians in times long past understood the changing of the seasons as part of the liturgical calendar. The winter solstice is the darkest time of year, a time when we eagerly await the return of the sun. Advent is also a season of darkness. It is a time of waiting and longing. We wait in eager expectation for the coming of the Son of God into the world and into our hearts. 

The solstices and the liturgical calendar follow the same pattern precisely because the cosmos (of which we are a part) is created in and through the Eternal Logos which became flesh for our sake. The deification of our souls also follows this same pattern. The deification of the mind and the deification of all creation both reflect the nature of Christ, who is eternally incarnating and eternally resurrecting. The following liturgy expresses this connection between the changing seasons and the light which shines in the darkness. 

You are welcome and invited to join us for this online communion service on Dec 18, 2022 at 2pm est. You will need to bring your own wine/juice and bread. We will ask for a few volunteers to do some reading at the beginning of the service, but no one will be expected to speak if they don’t volunteer. There will be an optional time for fellowship and chatting afterwards. You can click HERE to get into the zoom room and to learn about the different aspects of our community. 

The sources which each of the texts is taken from is noted in brackets. All of the readings used here can be found in my upcoming book Psalter of the Birds. The winter solstice and the tradition of Yule are topics which Tony, one of the members of our community, has written about. You can find that article by clicking HERE.


Leader (1 John 3:2 & 2 Corinthians 13:14)

Beloveds, in this moment we are God’s children; what we will become has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. Let the mass begin in the name of the Holy Trinity: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen

Reader 1 (Dionysius’ Celestial Hierarchy)

The sacred theologians describe the divinity
	The transcendent and shapeless Being
By the imagery of fire and flame
	An image based on the observation of nature

Fire reflects the characteristics of the Deity
	For visible fire is in everything
It passes undiluted through everything
	And yet is always beyond all things

It lights up everything in the world
	And yet remains hidden from our eyes
It cannot be perceived in its own nature
	We only see it when it interacts with matter

It is completely unstoppable
	And it can never be seen
Yet it is the master of everything
	It brings things into its own purpose

It gives itself to those who draw near it
	It renews and kindles with warmth
It gives illumination with unveiled enlightenment
	Yet is never diluted or loses its purity

Fire makes distinctions between things
	And yet it is always unchanging
It rises up and penetrates deeply
	It is exalted and never brought low

It is always on the move
	Moving itself and others
It extends in all directions at once
	It has no boundaries of any kind

It has no need of anyone
	It grows in the hidden places, unseen
It manifests its greatness when it is received
	It is dynamic, powerful, and invisibly present in everything

When it is ignored it seems to disappear
	But when there is friction it will seek something out
It appears suddenly and naturally of itself
	It communes joyfully with everything

Leader (Medieval Irish Prayer for Tears)

Lights the candle and says the following prayer while everyone follows along on mute

God give me tears to erase my sins
       Let them come until I have been purified
Let my heart burn with redemption’s flame
       Give me clear tears for Mary and Ita

Reader 2 (Eriugena’s Periphyseon)

The observation of nature teaches us
	That all things must return to their source
Human nature must also return to its own source
	Which is the Word in whom we live

Human nature was created in God’s image and likeness
	God the common first principle of all things
We will return to where we have come from
	Because we never fully abandon God

Through sin our nature has become tarnished
	It no longer bears the likeness of God
Likeness brings us nearer to God
	Unlikeness removes us to a distance

However, it is not by paces of the foot
	That we move towards or away from God
Rather we move closer or further
	By the affections of our minds

The light of the sun is not lost because of distance
	We lose its light when we close our eyes
It is not space which separates us from health
	We are separated from health by our pain

It happens in exactly the same way
	When we leave behind the virtues
Of life, blessedness, and wisdom
	Sin is the emptiness where they once were

In the same way that skin is infected with leprosy
	So human nature is infected with sin
In this illness the soul ceases to resemble
	The likeness of Jesus Christ its maker

When the soul is cured of that leprosy
	By the medicine of the Divine Grace
It will be restored to its former beauty
	And I will tell you one thing more

The nature which is created in the image of God
	Never truly lost the blossom of its beauty
Nor did it lose the integrity of its essence
	Nor could such a thing ever happen

Leader (The Stowe Missal)

O God, encircle and protect us with the prayers of your holy ones, of the blessed spirits of the angels, archangels, principalities, powers, dominations, virtues, thrones, cherubim, and seraphim. Protect us also with the prayers of the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, holy women, anchorites, monks, and holy celestial fellow-citizens. Grant, we pray, that we may advance by imitating them, and that you will defend us from all dangers through the prayers of the angels and saints. Amen

Reader Three (Medieval Irish Prayer to Mary)

Gentle Mary, noble maiden, give us help
       You are the shrine of our Lord's body
You are the jewel box of mysteries
       Queen of queens, pure holy maiden

Pray for us that our many transgressions
       May be forgiven for your sake
O merciful one, O forgiving one
       With the grace of the Holy Spirit

Pray with us to our king the fair judge 
       King of the good and fragrant clan
The fair branch of Jesse's tree 
       In the beautiful hazel wood

Pray for us until we obtain 
       Forgiveness of our many sins
Mary, splendid royal crown 
       The one who saved our race

You are a glorious noble torch
       You are the orchard of Kings
The brilliant one, the resplendent one
       Who lived in pure chastity

O fair golden illumined ark
       O holy daughter from Heaven
O mother of righteousness
       You surpass everyone else

Pray with us to your firstborn 
       To save us on the day of doom
O noble rare star, O blossoming tree
       O powerful and precious lamp

O sun that warms everyone
       O ladder of the great path
By which every saint ascends
       May you be our safeguard 
       Towards the glorious Kingdom

The noble guest was in your womb 
       For three times three months
Fair fragrant seat chosen by the King
       Glorious royal porch through which he was incarnated
The splendid and chosen sun
       Jesus, Son of the living God

For the sake of the fair babe 
       That was conceived in your womb
For the sake of the holy child 
       That is High King in every place

For the sake of his cross 
       That is higher than any cross
For the sake of his burial 
       When he was buried in a stone tomb

For the sake of his resurrection 
       When he arose before everyone
For the sake of the holy household 
       From every place until doom

O Mother Mary be our safeguard 
       In the Kingdom of the Good Lord
That we may meet with dear Jesus	
       That is our prayer
       Hail Mary full of grace

Everyone (Ephesians 3:17)

We say the prayer three times using our inner voice, breathing in the first line and out the second. 

May Christ dwell in my heart through faith
       As I am being rooted and grounded in love

Leader (Inspired by Eriugena’s Homily The Voice of the Eagle)

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it. The human race is in darkness, as if it has its head in a bag. Not darkness of the outer eyes, but darkness of the inner eyes – not in the darkness of gloomy skies but in the darkness which is the ignorance of truth. Human nature cannot shine on its own. It does not itself possess the nature of light but only participates in the light. Although it is capable of wisdom, it is not itself wisdom. Just as the earth is in darkness until it receives the light of the sun, so too our human nature is in darkness until it receives the light of wisdom. 

Let the darkness of this day remind you of the darkness of your nature. This darkness is not sinful but only hidden in shadow. It is not evil but rather a blessed potential waiting to be awakened. With each passing day the light grows more and more and the gifts of the sun become manifest in the earth. So too, as day by day the light of Christ increases within us, we become manifestations of Christ. The light of Christ fills us and transforms us. When the light of the sun fills the air the air itself becomes light giving birth to the new day. The darkness of our nature is also filled with light at the coming of the Son and our clay gives birth to the fullness of God’s image and likeness.

Bright shining Sun, who transforms the darkness, fill our hearts with your wisdom that we may gather warmth for the coming spring. In this season of night, let us rest in peace as you work within us, rejuvenating the clay of our bodies even as you prepare us to receive the coming light which you promised from before time began. Amen

Everyone

Get your bread and wine/juice ready and share 5 min of silence

Leader (Luke 22:17-19)

When his time was coming near, Jesus took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”

Reader 4 (Written by Justin)

Loving Mother God, from whom all things come and to whom all things will return, bless this bread and wine that it may be for us a Celestial Medicine. Open our eyes that we may see these simple elements for what they truly are – the body and blood of Christ. May we rejoice in the gift of our own embodiment through the grace of your embodiment in this simple food and drink. As we take the body of Christ into our own bodies, may the sacred harmony of the angel song fill our hearts and minds and may we be united with your Son, who is beyond all nature and yet is the substance of all nature. Amen

Everyone

Takes communion with 5 more min of silence

Reader 5  (Inspired by Eriugena’s Homily The Voice of the Eagle)

John the Baptist, the man sent from God, the Elijah who was to come, prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him. Let every valley be lifted up and every mountain made low. The voice of one crying out in the wilderness proclaimed the coming of the Light of the world. John was himself a light in the world, but he was not the source of all light. John was the voice which passes away and Jesus is the Word which is eternal and unchanging. John was the morning star, which appears at the dawning of God’s Kingdom. Jesus is the sun of righteousness which replaces the morning star by its brightness. John was the morning star but his light was not his own. Rather, it was the grace of the one whom he had prepared the way for which was burning within him. He himself was not the Light but he participated in the Light. 

John the Forerunner, who lived in the wild places, pray with us to the Light which you proclaimed. Help us to open up pathways in the wilderness of our souls. Let all of our valleys be lifted up and all of our mountains be made low so that we, becoming meek, may inherit a share of the Kingdom of God. May we, like the morning star, shine in the darkness, waiting in confident anticipation of the coming sun. May our hearts be filled with the Light of Christ and may Christ become manifest through us into the world.

All this we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, the long expected messiah, the anointed one who will save the world. The one to whom our hearts lie open and from whom our hearts have life. O Gracious God, creator of heaven and earth, come and be with us. Be among your creatures and fill us with your Light. Amen

Leader (Ephesians 3:16-19)

Dearly beloveds, I pray that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through the Holy Spirit and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to understand, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth and also to know the love of Christ that surpasses all understanding, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. The mass is completed, go in peace.


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