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The Longest Night

As the world stands witness to so many awful situations, in the face of famines, enormous fires, refugee crises, and small and larger injustices far and, yes, near… this season of waiting acquires new depth.

The Cathedral is preparing for celebratory offerings of music (Messaien’s l’Enfance du Christ at 4:30 pm on Saturday, Dec 16;  Lessons and Carols at 4 pm on Sunday, Dec 17) and four Christmas liturgies (Dec 24 and 25). In addition, we will hold a “Blue Christmas” service at 7 pm on Wednesday December 20.

Many churches Blue Christmas Angel 2015now offer such a service, sometimes called the “Longest Night” because it’s on or near the Winter Solstice. This gathering provides a space for accompaniment, reflection, prayer, and worship especially suitable for people who are having a difficult time during the holidays or who simply need to acknowledge some pain or loss they are carrying in the midst of this season of celebration. (The drawing of the angel is by Hazel Bryan Beraha, a long time member of the Cathedral who died two years ago). 

As a spiritual practice this week, consider attending the Blue Christmas service … perhaps with a friend. Why? As the rest of the world rushes toward the Christmas holiday, Blue Christmas acknowledges the world into which Jesus was born and reminds us that we are still in Advent, a time of quiet contemplation and preparation.

If you are not able to come in person, do imagine, as one pastor wrote, the God who says “I will not pretend that your pain is not real. But I won’t leave you.”  See also  Marsha Lederman’s Globe & Mail piece callling for all of us to pay attention to those for whom the season is not easy.

BLESSING FOR THE LONGEST NIGHT (by Jan Richardson, from the facebook post  of Philip Chircop SJ)

For you who are offering or participating in such a service and for all who struggle in this season, I wish you many blessings and pray for the presence of Christ our Light, who goes with us in the darkness and in the day.

All throughout these months
as the shadows
have lengthened,
this blessing has been
gathering itself,
making ready,
preparing for
this night.

It has practiced
walking in the dark,
traveling with
its eyes closed,
feeling its way
by memory
by touch
by the pull of the moon
even as it wanes.

So believe me
when I tell you
this blessing will
reach you
even if you
have not light enough
to read it;
it will find you
even though you cannot
see it coming.

You will know
the moment of its
by your release
of the breath
you have held
so long;
a loosening
of the clenching
in your hands,
of the clutch
around your heart;
a thinning
of the darkness
that had drawn itself
around you.

This blessing
does not mean
to take the night away
but it knows
its hidden roads,
knows the resting spots
along the path,
knows what it means
to travel
in the company
of a friend.

So when
this blessing comes,
take its hand.
Get up.
Set out on the road
you cannot see.

This is the night
when you can trust
that any direction
you go,
you will be walking
toward the dawn.

© Jan Richardson.

This reflection with some different links was first published in 2015 and has been updated for 2017.


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