I live in a row of old apartment buildings in Astoria, NY. Just across the East River of Manhattan, my Queens apartment is relatively affordable and spacious. The buildings butt up directly to one another, creating a corridor down our street and a continuous line of rooftops. It was up on my roof (four stories up) where I had my winter solstice ritual this morning.
While I normally greet the dawn after staying up all night, this year I woke up around 5am to prepare. Bundled up against the cold and clutching my tea, I made my way up the stairs and out onto the roof.
It was dark when I arrived, but very soon the bare hint of dawn lit the sky. The clouds were beautiful and I sat and watched the sun slowly slip up over the horizon as the birds flew above me.
This year has been a powerful one for me and the transformations coming are echoed in all sorts of different aspects of my life. I see powerful symbols of Christianity and interfaith dialogue everywhere I go. This morning held another interesting symbol for me. From my vantage point, the sun was going to rise up over the Roman Catholic Church that fills my house with the chiming of bells every morning. Right between three crosses, the Sun King was going to rise in all of his glory to announce the return of brightness and warmth and the end of ever darkening days.
I sat up there on my roof this morning and I talked with the Goddess. I thanked her for the many blessings on my life and for the return of the sun. As we talked, she said something to me that I wanted to share with you.
The Goddess showed me that the Sun King and the Holy Savior are basically the same. As all children are children of the Goddess, there is no reason not to embrace Jesus as anything less than another face of divinity and grace. It is only in the human search to define and differentiate do we find the need to argue about who is right and who is wrong. Divine energy doesn't care how you approach it. Spirituality is a personal choice, a path that resonates with individuals and not something to be dictated to others. I have long believed that it is best if we just find the form and face of God that best facilitates our ability to engage divine energy. But this morning I was reminded that those different approaches are only different from our perspective. God marks no difference between the Christian and the Buddhist. The Goddess makes no distinction between the Sun King and her son, Jesus Christ.
Christians didn't steal the holiday of the solstice away from pagans and place the birth of their savior on this day. Christians, like all people and paths on this planet, are the descendants of indigenous traditions. In essence, they are "us". So the idea that these natural holy days remained present in their shifting and redefined religious paths seems only natural. The solstice wasn't stolen, only renamed. And I believe that it is only in our own eyes that these differences have any meaning.
As I came back inside from this morning's ritual I found a link in my email account to a piece in the Times about bombings in Baghdad. More than 60 people are dead and easily three times that have been wounded in a series of vicious bombings. As Muslim men, women, and children are killed in an ongoing religious and cultural war, I find myself hearing the message from this morning.
We are not different people. There is no "them". These are mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. These are people just like me. These people are neither the enemy nor are they so different from us that their pain and tragedies warrant dismissal. I don't hold any kind of expertise in political policy and Middle Eastern cultural knowledge. What I do know is that in the last decade, there has been a huge increase in the differentiation made between us and them.
Soon I will attend a school where the Christians have declared that I am allowed to be part of their "us", despite the different ways that we interpret the divine. This solstice I am being reminded by God that in honor of that acceptance, perhaps I need to find new ways to actively support and understand my Muslim brothers and sisters, both here and abroad.