Archive for December, 2010

Midrash

This year, Tony and I hosted a winter solstice gathering. Rain pelted down, darkness closed in. But a good fire blazed on our hearth, and a pan of Yul Glogg simmered on the stove. Friends hung wet coats on the rack in the entry hall and offered gifts: a jar of preserves, a bag of cookies, a candle. One brought a poem to read, another a copy of an article she thought I might enjoy. We visited, we ate and drank.

Around the time when the sun, if we could see it, would be dropping into the sea, Tony said a few words. We listened to the poem, Rebecca Parker’s  “Winter Solstice.” A hush surrounded her words:

“…earth hangs poised

in the crystalline darkness, and then

gracefully

tilts.

Let there be a season

when holiness is heard, and

the splendor of living is revealed.”

(The whole poem can be found on the Nancy Drew Too blog).

After our guests were gone, I read the article I had been given. It was from the December 2010 Friends Journal.  I loved the title, “A Quaker Midrash.” The author, Charles David Kleymeyer, explains that the Jewish term “midrash” is an imaginative reconstruction of missing parts of a sacred text.  He creates a narrative to account for the twelve days between the birth of Jesus and the arrival of the Magi; how it was that Mary and Joseph were able to stay in Bethlehem long enough to meet them.

As I sat with the two texts in front of me, the article and the poem, I realized that all our sacred texts are midrashim. Faced with immensity, we humans make stories to explain our overwhelm of reverence. It no longer matters that Christianity appropriated the calendar dates and customs of the Roman Saturnalia, or that the Twelve Days of Christmas derive from the timeframe of the old Norse festival of Yule. It’s immaterial whether we celebrate the birthday of the sun or of the Son. What matters is the pause, as of the sun in its path at the solstice, to remember who we are and why we are here.

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