I love liturgy, and believe it to be one way in which we can enter the liminal and encounter Spirit (John 4:24), where we can be deeply ‘moved’, and where things happen.
Winter solstice, Alban Arthan, is one of my favourite celebrations. And, below is a prayer for the winter solstice sunrise and/or Christmas Day.
The old year is gone, things have died, darkness has come, coldness fills the air, but now great changes take place. Light bursts forth, and that which was hidden in the darkness, that which was growing in the womb, that secret place, spring forth to life, even though we may not see it, visibly, yet. It may still be dark, but not as dark. It’s getting lighter. Still cold, but generally not as cold, bearing in mind differing, temporary weather patterns, but Spring is on its way. Light overcomes, life is in abundance, grace is ubiquitous.
The world turns, and we cast off all that holds us back, as the new year begins. It’s a time for realising outward changes, and inward changes, too! New thoughts, new enterprises, new habits and new resolutions are made. The Spirit says, ‘Behold, I am making all things new’ (Rev 21:5).
The following liturgy is a suggestion, and one that I find useful in connection with my ‘path’, and can be said of the shortest day of the year as the sun rises. For London in 2015, winter solstice sunrise is Tuesday, 22 December at 4.49am [7.55am in Seattle, 7.16am in New York, 8.31am in Bonn, Germany, E&OE].
I’m very much into ‘physical’ liturgy, and so body position and ritual is important. For me, it’s about intentionality. To put into physical form that which is otherwise only internal. For practical purposes I use a small compass, beforehand, to ‘scribe’ a circle on the ground and mark on it the four cardinal compass points – marking each cardinal point with a stone. It just makes it so easy. Then, as I stand in the centre of that circle, I can easily turn to face the appropriate cardinal point as I recite the prayer.
Various individuals and groups will face the cardinal compass points for various ceremonies, and each may have a differing start point. For this prayer, my usual starting point is facing south. [Hope that doesn’t offend, but you can amend as appropriate].
For me, then, as I turn, deosil (clockwise), at the recitation of each stanza, I’ll eventually recite the last stanza facing East just as the sun rises. Therefore, it may be best to start recitation about 2 minutes before sunrise and take it slowly, and pause when facing Eastward until the sun does indeed rise and then recite the last stanza. Quite dramatic.
If you also use an Advent candle holder, then just before you recite each stanza you could light one of the four perimeter candles in succession, culminating in lighting the fifth, central candle, after the last stanza has been recited and the sun is up.
Prayer For the Winter Solstice sunrise
Standing. Recite, facing south:
In this time when it is darkest,
we offer gratitude for all that was and is,
and for all that is about to be born in secret.
Recite, facing west:
In this season of expectation
we draw near in unity and peace for all,
to offer praise and worship to the Spirit of all.
Recite, facing north:
At this intersection of time and space
when Heaven touches Earth,
we look forward in anticipation and hope
to the year ahead.
Recite, facing east as the sun rises:
Yea, Lord, we greet you,
born this happy morning.
Brother Sun, who brings the day and gives light
testifies to your birth, and re-birth in our hearts.