Longest Night—An Introit For the Winter Solstice

Photo: Winter Country Road Mac Wallpapers

From eons past, upon the gathering gloom

And shade of this one evening, we tightly grasp

That three-strand cord held by our ancestors

From every shore and mount and plain

Upon this oceaned rock, who held in awe

The great fiery orb, which coursed above their heads;

Its light of such great concentration

No person dared stare into the brilliance

Of its face, for human eyes cannot bear

A moment’s glance into its searing countenance.

And yet…

From whose womb has come the ice?

And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth?

Water becomes hard like a stone,

And the surface of the deep is imprisoned.

(Job 38:29-30, NAS)

 A battle eternal seemed waged in the heavenly sphere

For the chariot of light and warmth and life

Did not cross the sky each day unchallenged, inviolable.

Some unseen hand pulled at its reins, with what intent?

What mystery was at work as day cascaded into night,

Warmth dissolving to coldness, light extinguished

By the dark, new lights piercing the growing shade,

A pale swath spilt cross the arch of the heavens, with

Streaks flashing across the heavenly vault, or ominous wraiths

Appearing unbidden with tails stretching across the vastness of the night?

One great traveler of the night, too, its crescent visor

Ever revealing and concealing its expression immutable, but for

Those nights when shining bright, it darkened to a mask blood red

The mountain is dark, the shadows cast over it,

All the sunbeams of eventide are gone,

With head held high the Sun has gone

To the bosom of … his mother.

(From “Gilgamesh and Huwawa”, circa 18th Century BCE; Trans: A. George)

As twilight turned to dawn—and dawn to day—

Our ancestors saw the blessed light of their abundance

Ever southward creep lower into the sky as one condemned.

The hand upon the rein, invisible, pulling down its midday transit,

Held, too, unyielding through the night, with what intent?

Earth’s breath chilled, life’s too, and with it, the embers

Of the human heart dimming with each shortening day.

Very day and very life faltered, trudging in the darkening mists,

Forced march toward the valley of the shadow of death.

The darkest day of mortals has caught up with you,

The solitary place of every mortal has caught up with you.

(From “The Death of Gilgamesh”, circa 18th Century BCE; Trans: A. George)

 Those shadows, too, cast longer as the

Light of day growing ever shorter, while

Night’s mantle weaving on a heavenly loom

Impenetrable to any ray of light or hope of warmth

A veil sweeping away the final rays of light

Into the absolute darkness of our sepulchered fate.

“I will cover the heavens and darken their stars;

I will cover the sun with a cloud,

And the moon shall not give its light.

All the shining lights in the heavens

I will darken over you

And I will set the darkness on your land,”

Declares the LORD God.

(Ezekiel 32:7b-8, NAS)

From eons past, upon the gathering gloom

And shade of this one evening, we tightly grasp

That three-strand cord held by our ancestors

From every shore and mount and plain

Upon this oceaned rock, who held in awe

The great fiery orb, which coursed above their heads.

In their wisdom, charting those celestial journeys,

The shadows not the light divulged the hand’s loosing grip of the solstick reins.

Out of the mysteries of the Sky’s inconstancies there yet

Was a music of the spheres, a great symphony of the heavens:

The great darkness of this longest night is a singularity.

Light has not been quenched, its warmth’s ember ne’er burned out

By Death’s chill, unchallenged. For upon the Dawn of morrow

With warming hearts and upturned faces we greet the Light reborn!


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