‘Tis the Season and this is Christmas Eve. On Week 50 we are fully diverted from whatever else is going on in the world. Here’s where my thoughts are today. My spiritual life has taken a circuitous route to where I am today. Raised a Christian with a British godmother who marked my baptism with a Saint Christopher medal and another with the head of Christ, I was baptized at the age of 8 when my agnostic parents felt I needed direction. I kept for many years the beeswax baptismal candle I received that day, much like the one below.
I attended parochial school and sang in the choir. I even played Mary one year in the Christmas play. When I went off to a prestigious girls’ prep school in New England, we had chapel every morning, singing hymns and reading prayers from the Episcopal liturgy. I love the hymns still today. An enduring favorite of mine is “Jerusalem,” adapted from a poem by William Blake, a hymn we sang every year at special times, standing, singing in unison, with fire and feeling. Here are the words. and the music follows.
And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.
The images in that video of the verdant English hills and of Stonehenge, remind us that our early years as humans were unencumbered by formal theology as we know it but had a developing dogma of their own. For many of us, our ancient heritage springs from a Druid and Pagan beginning. For others of us, the spiritual path comes from the Yoruba tradition brought here from Africa by enslaved humans who have suffered and still continue to suffer from that indignity and racial prejudice that still lurks in the US and elsewhere. And elsewhere on the earth, others mark the winter solstice in their own unique ways, or not at all.
I was married at 20 to a rebellious fifth generation Friend in a solemn Philadelphia Quaker meeting, and they don’t incorporate music in their meetings, or didn’t then at any rate. Alas, a few years later I was a single mom looking for something that was missing. Thus I became a Mormon and spent a number of years active in that church, especially loving the music and always singing in the choir. When I saw this video, I decided to share it here. It touched my heart even as I wished they hadn’t felt the need to include the religious bit at the end. It was filled with loving meaning enough as it was. It brings with it the hope that a lost loved one can return one day. May it be so.
In my later years I converted to Judaism and then found the dharma way, the Noble Eightfold Path. and Buddhism is my practice today. I still observe the Jewish Holidays with my husband in our traditional but mostly secular way. And I practice Buddhist meditation daily.
The Wexford Carol we just heard has a rich and storied history. I was vaguely familiar with it, and then I found this sweet rendition by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss.