“…Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Cosmic Source.” – Jesus, Matthew 5.16
In the fourth century of the Common Era, Christianity became the imperial religion of Rome; that is, the Roman emperor embraced and endorsed the Christian faith. Old images of the Roman sun-god were reinterpreted to symbolize Christ. The rays of light that had artistically signified the divinity of the sun-deity now radiated as Christ’s halo.
I recall these images from church history and from art today because today is the Summer Solstice. This is the longest day of the year, when the astronomical commonwealth seems to feature the powerful, life-giving sun.
In ancient times (in northern lands), the Summer Solstice became a time for celebration. The snow was all gone. The days were long and warm and Nature seemed full of life, which would be birthed in abundance in the later autumnal harvest. It was assumed that this happy time of life and warmth and renewal was a divine gift, and so the sun-god was revered and praised for his rich blessings of life and light. Rather than cosmic rays radiating from his head, he often was seen in these cultures with cloven hoof, impressive antlers, and lush greenery demonstrating the richness of summer.
I even recall stories from the Hebrew Scriptures that show a fascination with or reverence for solar power. Days before and after the solstice, the sun appears to stand still. It remains high in the sky (from our view) and the light just keeps shining into what at other times of the year is night. There is a story in the bible of Joshua making the sun stand still. Realizing that the sun doesn’t actually travel across the sky, I assume the image is meant to suggest that time appeared to stand still; but I also wonder if the story doesn’t refer to a time of solstice when the sun does appear to linger in our view. The prophet Malachi also predicts that the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. Summer is a time when vitality seems to flourish.
What does the Solstice mean to you? How might it reconnect you with a sense of wonder or awe or hope? How might the Solstice remind you that divine energies are very active within and around you? How might divine Life shine forth brightly in your experience today?
In his sermon on the Mount, Jesus is said to have told his disciples, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.” Maybe that’s a good word for us today on this Solstice. We are light and love and energy and brilliance and possibilities. We are meant to shine and thrive. Perhaps the sun shines a bit longer today in hopes that we will remember our own light and that we will let it shine in powerful and world-changing ways. Happy Solstice!