December 2007


WinterShe Gracefully Surrenders

In fall, the earth begins the process of releasing all the things she has been holding onto throughout spring and summer, and by midwinter she has let everything go. She sits clean and undecorated in her simplicity, free of the frenzy of life that defines her in the warmer seasons. There is a quiet humility about the earth in the winter months, as animals and people retreat inside to escape the wet and sometimes freezing cold that takes hold. Inside our homes we create abundance and warmth in response to being effectively kicked indoors by the dark and cold that permeate the outdoors.

We burn fires in fireplaces and make heavy, hot foods to keep our bodies warm and insulated. We may find ourselves sleeping longer hours and yearning for downtime, just like the animals deep inside their caves and warrens taking a winter-long nap. Even if we live in a warmer climate, the longer nights and shorter days have the same effect on our cycles. If we surrender to this time as nature intended, we allow ourselves to slow down, sleep more, and lower the volumes on our busy minds. At the same time, we crave company in our dwellings, and the insulated warmth of the hearth tends to bring people together, creating more warmth and fostering connections that last through the coming year.

We laugh, eat, and talk, sleep, or catch up on reading, while outside our windows the earth grows dark earlier and stays cold longer, accepting as always of the process of change and her place within it. We might remember to learn from her as she so gracefully surrenders to the emptiness that precedes all form, the peace that precedes activity, the darkness that precedes the light. For everything she gives and teaches, we might offer a blessing, extending a goodly portion of the gratitude of this season her way, holding her in our hearts and thanking her for our very lives.

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A medieval legend tells us that in the country we know today as Austria the Burkhard family – a man, a woman and a child – used to amuse people at Christmas parties by reciting poetry, singing ancient troubadour ballads, and juggling. Of course, there was never any money left over to buy presents, but the man always told his son:

“Do you know why Santa Claus’s bag never gets empty, although there are so many children in the world? Because it may be full of toys, but sometimes there are more important things to be delivered, what we call “invisible gifts”. In a broken home, he tries to bring harmony and peace on the holiest night in Christianity. Where love is lacking, he deposits a seed of faith in children’s hearts. Where the future seems black and uncertain, he brings hope. In our case, the day after Father Christmas comes to visit us, we are happy to be still alive and doing our work, which is to make people happy. Never forget that.”

Time passed, the boy grew up, and one day the family passed in front of the impressive Melk Abbey, which had just been built.

“Father, do you remember many years ago you told me the story of Santa Claus and his invisible gifts? I think that I received one of those gifts once: the vocation to become a priest. Would you mind if now I took my first step towards what I have always dreamed of?”

Although they really needed their son’s company, the family understood and respected the boy’s wish. They knocked at the door of the monastery and were given a loving, generous welcome by the monks, who accepted the young Buckhard as a novice.

Christmas Eve came around. And precisely on that day, a special miracle happened in Melk: Our Lady, carrying the baby Jesus in her arms, decided to descend to Earth to visit the monastery.

All the priests lined up and each of them stood proudly before the Virgin trying to pay homage to the Madonna and her Son. One of them displayed the beautiful paintings that decorated the place, another showed a copy of a Bible that had taken a hundred years to be written and illustrated, while a third recited the names of all the saints.

At the very end of the line, young Buckhard anxiously waited his turn. His parents were simple people, and all that they had taught him was to toss balls up in the air and do some juggling.

When it came his turn, the other priests wanted to put an end to all the homage that had been paid, since the ex-juggler had nothing important to add and might even mar the image of the abbey.

Nevertheless, deep in his heart he also felt a great need to give something of himself to Jesus and the Virgin. Feeling very ashamed before the reproachful gaze of his brothers, he took some oranges from his pocket and began to toss them in the air and catch them in his hands, creating a beautiful circle in the air just as he used to do when he and his family traveled to all the fairs in the region.

At that instant, the baby Jesus, lying in Our Lady’s lap, began to clap his hands with joy. And it was to young Buckhard that the Virgin held out her arms to let him hold the smiling child for a few moments.

The legend ends by saying that on account of this miracle, every two hundred years a new Buckhard knocks on the door of Melk Abbey, is welcomed in, and for the whole time he remains there he warms the hearts of all who meet him.

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http://www.warriorofthelight.com/engl/index.html”

It’s Christmas Eve. How do you feel? Are you balancing work and play, friends, family, personal time, finances and health? This year, for me, has been one of the hardest of my life, yet as 2007 comes to a close I feel stronger and clearer and brighter. In one week I will arrive in Barcelona, Spain, but before I land on another continent I continue to cherish holiday moments here. I’ve been blessed to enjoy abundance in resources and time shared with loved ones.

Have you considered reinventing the holiday season… I appreciate ritual and tradition. I value celebration and the chance to honor particular circumstances. I enjoy the spirit of Christmas. Yet like many of those near and dear, I don’t practice any form of organized religion, and I question the mass marketing consumerism which has become the plague of American holidays.

My questions to you – What did you do this year that brings you joy? What are your holiday traditions? How are they meaningful? Have you done anything different this year from others?

How would the Christmas holiday season look to you if you had it your way? How would it feel? Are you interested to create change?

To all who I was so fortunate to share holiday festivities with – Thank YOU!!! I am grateful for your presence in my life. For those whose paths did not cross – I know we will share something beautiful in 2008. May the remainder of 2007 be filled with grace and 2008 bless you with unexpected delights!!!