Thursday, June 21, 2018

Celebrating the Summer Solstice

I am the fire that burns within your soul;
I am the holy light that fills and makes you whole.
I am the flame within that never dies;
I am the sun that will ever arise.

– Lisa Theil
Excerpted from "Litha (Summer Solstice Song)"

Today is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere, and at noon today I led a "prayer gathering" in the chapel of Abbott Northwestern Hospital (ANW) to celebrate the occasion. As regular readers of this blog would know, I'm currently three-quarters of the way through a year-long chaplain residency at ANW.

Entitled "See How We Shine!" this gathering was not only a celebration of summer but also the creation-centered wisdom that is found within the Pagan, Christian, Sufi, and Indigenous spiritual traditions. In this way it was very similar to the spring equinox celebration I facilitated in April as my residency leadership project.

In planning and facilitating today's interfaith celebration of summer, I shared the writings of Hafez, Joyce Rupp, Kahlil Gibran, Rabindranath Tagore, Starhawk, and Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, along with the music of Lisa Thiel and Walela. I also shared my photography, with many of the images of summer incorporated into the event having been previously shared at The Wild Reed. (See, for example, here, here, and here.)

Above: At left with my friends (from left) Verna, Chandler, Logan, and Katie – June 21, 2018.

About 25 people participated in today's prayer gathering, the last event in ANW's chapel before it closes at the end of the month for a major renovation. Accordingly, we incorporated a leave-taking ritual into today's event. How exactly did we do this?

Well, when we processed outside to say our closing prayer, we carried with us a wall sculpture from the chapel (right). Entitled "In the Beginning," this work of art by sculptor Georgette Sosin symbolizes "the creative energy born of all beginnings, changes, and life cycles." Like the sun, which from today begins its slow ebbing into winter but which will return in full again next summer, Sosin's beautiful work of art will return to grace the interior of our new chapel.

Now on this longest day, light triumphs, and yet begins the decline into dark. The Sun King grown embraces the Queen of Summer in the love that is death because it is so complete that all dissolves into the single song of ecstasy that moves the worlds. So the Lord of Light dies to Himself, and sets sail across the dark seas of time, searching for the isle of light that is rebirth. We turn the Wheel and share his fate, for we have planted the seeds of our own changes, and to grow we must accept even the passing of the sun. . . . And yet we see with clear sight and know the mystery of the unbroken circle! The sun is not lost, it will rise again. the sun, too, is within us! See how we shine!

– Starhawk
Excerpted from The Spiral Dance
pp. 189-190

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
June, the "Time of Perfect Young Summer"
In Summer Light
Summer Blooms
Summer Boy
Shards of Summer
A Song of Summer
Welcoming the Return of Spring

Related Off-site Links:
Summer Solstice 2018: First Day of SummerThe Old Farmer's Almanac (June 21, 2018).
Welcoming the Summer SolsticeThe Leveret (June 20, 2016).
Names of the Summer Solstice -- Jason Mankey (Patheos, June 19, 2014).


Mark Mallinger said...

It was a beautiful ritual, Michael. Thank you!

Catherine Conroy said...

This, dear Michael, is the wonderful creative work that you so beautifully produce. So great to see.