December 21st: this is the day when the year turns. So close to the Christian festival of Christmas, and to the secular and calendrical festival of New Year, it is the solstice when, seen from the Earth, the Sun stands still a moment before the days lengthen once more, and the year moves on towards summer. (In point of fact, this year, the actual moment of solstice is in the early hours of tomorrow morning, because of the slight discrepancy between solar time and the 24 hours of our human clocks.)
The movement of the seasons is all grace. Well as planetary scientists may understand the mechanism, there is nothing we can ourselves do to change the way the world moves around its parent star, nor the changes that movement brings to us. They are simply given to us, as our home. We are small, really, and frail, despite our lovely curiosity and our luminous minds. All we can do is celebrate.
We should celebrate. The grey rain streams through the gusting wind, and the small birds have taken cover in the hedges and the little woods. Yet the darkening of days is at an end: from now on, each day will be a little longer – only slightly, but we’ll get there. Or rather the beautiful physics of the solar system will get there, and we’ll feel it, see it, live it in all our cells, in the easing of our minds towards the long days and the sunlight.
Satya Robyn points out that every detail of our existence is grace: the provision of oxygen, food, shelter, the very constitution of our bodies – all are given. She goes on to speak of the humility that comes with this realisation: a humility that is “a very realistic appraisal of our conditions and of our [imperfect] nature which leads to a natural sense of contrition. Contrition is the gate through which grace can enter.”
She goes on:
So is grace some kind of divine intervention…? I don’t know. What I do know is that the universe is vast and complex, and is beyond the limits of our imagination… In a world such as this, anything is possible. Maybe grace is coincidence and wishful thinking, maybe not. It doesn’t matter. What matters is whether the concept of grace helps me to keep an open mind and heart, or not. It does. That is enough.
We are connected, we and the Sun and the vast and subtle movements of our planet; we and all the creatures on this Earth. The same star warms us, the same soil brings forth our food. More than that: we and all that has come to be spring from the same Ground of Being, the Source of existence itself. We are sisters of the interstellar distances, brothers of the stars. This isn’t something from a poster on a Glastonbury noticeboard: it is a simple fact. To live in it is the work of our lives; to live in the truth that that brings to us is the gift we have to give to every creature, human or otherwise.