Through learning about Advent’s ancient connection to the Winter Solstice, the author rediscovers the "silky silence" of December’s darkness and the "nascent light" inside each one of us.
In a culture of curated sharing, the intimacy of human touch can be daunting — even for a pastor. An essay on how the practice of laying on of hands is a quiet and necessary rite that ought to become part of our story again.
Atul Gawande's new book on the aging and the dying process inspires this column on turning bearing witness to our own instincts and doing things a different way.
Sometimes the most sacred experiences happen in the most mundane of places: in a big box store, after your spouse empties the litter box, or during an encounter with a taxi driver.
During the High Holy Days, a daughter remembers her father and the blessing he was as he aged — with memory and a poem.
A mix of unexpected joy from a prairie trombone and a Finnish folk band playing AC/DC paired with a sage Nobel Prize-winning Bengali, a nonagenarian from Boston, and columnists Parker and Courtney. Quite swath of things to think about and carry into the week.
In a culture with too few rituals, what role does drink play in the contemporary rituals of our times? Courtney Martin on memory, communal moments, and the potential for a true suspension of self.
How does a child of Indian immigrants — and a new mother — who isn't Christian celebrate the Christmas season in the U.S.? By taking it in and making it her own tradition.
The Chief Rabbi of the UK says that the plasticity of our brains should lead us into a whole new study about "deep practice" and developing attributes such as gratitude in our daily rituals.
How do we respect the depth of a Christian snake handler's faith — and talk about it without caricaturing or lauding his life?
Some beautiful photos of Pagans and others celebrating summer solstice around the world. Who wants to jump the fire with us?
The same evening that 40,000 Orthodox Jews gathered for a rally to consider the dangers of the Internet (and its responsible use), an email from a local conservative synagogue arrived in my inbox to remind me of a ritual for observant Jews to count the Omer.
“Contemplation” (photo: Kasia/Flickr cc by-nc-sa 2.0)
Ash Wednesday is today, inaugurating this year’s season of Lent. Cultural customs dictate “giving something up” for Lent. Without any meaningful or theological reflection, it becomes “giving up for the sake of giving up,” as though the mere act is enough. Is there more to it than just giving us something to talk about and a way to feel good about ourselves?
Photo by John (mtsofan)/Flickr, cc by-nc-sA 2.0
Remember you are soil, and to soil you shall return.
The language of “spiritual journey” is commonplace in describing the season of Lent — the 40-day pilgrimage Christians undertake as they trek with Jesus from the wilderness to the garden to the garbage heap of Golgotha and beyond. “Spiritual” in this context, as in almost every other, is so vague as to be not merely unhelpful but an actual obstacle to understanding what it is that Lent has called Christians to through the centuries.
In preparation for the Maha Shivratri festival, an Indian girl touches up these in-demand statuettes of Lord Shiva at a roadside stall on the outskirts of Amritsar. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Lord Shiva, one of the Trimurti in the Hindu trinity, is recognized today during the festival of Maha Shivratri. At this time, Hindus offer special prayers and fast to worship Lord Shiva, the Lord of Destruction. Lord Shiva’s devotees consider him to be the destroyer of the world, ego, and attachments. At temples devoted to Shiva, the devout pray and burn incense as offerings during a night-long vigil.
When a video of U.S. Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban fighters became international headline news last month, national dialogue around the incident centered mostly on its impact on U.S.-brokered peace talks, the safety of military personnel in the region, and the military culture that some argue contributed to the dehumanizing act. Largely absent from mainstream news media coverage, however, was any meaningful attempt to understand how the global Muslim community viewed the desecration of the corpses.
In the lands between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, the first of three Christmas celebrations was on December 24, the Christmas of the English, or so we thought of it then in the years of my adolescence. My family — ethnic Armenians, Christians by subscription more than piety — had settled in Jordan, a largely Muslim country, where I grew into adulthood, pulled this way and that by the three Christmases of the Holy Land. Of course it was a misnomer to call it the Christmas of the English because December 24 was celebrated by Catholic and Protestant Arabs as well.
Although I was born on Christmas, I feel like I’m slightly part Hanukkah now. Each year since I remarried — an event which brought two Jewish stepchildren into my life — I have anticipated the Festival of Lights with almost as much excitement as my hybrid celebration of the Winter Solstice/Yule and Christmas.
My stepchildren are actually half-Hanukkah and half-Christmas; their mother is Jewish, their father is not. Their parents long ago agreed the children would be raised Jewish, so they are attending the several years of Hebrew school that prepare them to become a bar and bat mitzvah. Having grown up with Christian and Jewish extended families, however, they have honored their heritage from both sides by celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas from the time they were born. As each year draws to a close, they look forward to lighting Hanukkah candles as well as decorating the Christmas tree with their doting, out-of-town Presbyterian grandparents.
Last fall the idea to visit the family graveyard came to mind for the first time in ages. Día de Los Muertos seemed like the perfect excuse to make the journey. I allowed life and distance to keep me away, however, and I never went.
I am not Latina, but I did develop a strong appreciation for Mexican culture while studying midwifery on the Texas/Mexico border. When I moved home to Georgia, I kept a piece of Mexico in my heart. Since the first idea to celebrate my ancestors Mexican-style entered my mind last year, the urge had only grown stronger. So as November approached this year, I resolved to do it. I invited my two sisters. One said she’d bake a casserole and we planned to picnic at the cemetery. On October 31st, they both cancelled on me. I was determined, however, and went anyway.
On Samhain, the veil between the worlds separating the living from the dead grows thin and permeable. Guest contributor Peg Aloi explains Hallowe'en and reflects on its popular hold on our contemporary culture.