By Tasha Friedman

“All the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.” (St. Francis of Assisi)

As the Earth’s northern hemisphere tilts away from the Sun, we are coming close to the shortest days of the year.

Many cultures around the world celebrate this time as a pivotal moment in the year, a period of death and rebirth as one natural cycle ends so another can begin.

Sacred to many prehistoric pagan cultures, the winter solstice has been marked since the Neolithic age as the last feast before going into the depths of winter. In ancient Rome, this was the time of Saturnalia, three days of wild festivities and role reversal, and the holiday of the sun god.

Earlier this month there was already the Jewish holiday Hanukkah, an 8-day celebration of the survival of the Jewish people against all odds and the miraculous triumph of light over darkness.

Soon millions of people worldwide will celebrate Christmas. A star appears over Bethlehem, the miracle of awakened consciousness appears in the form of a human child.

In the greatest darkness we can find the greatest light. The true miracle of the winter solstice is recognizing that light burning inside our hearts, guiding us home.

Dark Night by St. John of the Cross

On a dark night,
Kindled in love with yearnings–oh, happy chance!–
I went forth without being observed,
My house being now at rest.

In darkness and secure,
By the secret ladder, disguised–oh, happy chance!–
In darkness and in concealment,
My house being now at rest.

In the happy night,
In secret, when none saw me,
Nor I beheld aught,
Without light or guide, save that which burned in my
heart.

This light guided me
More surely than the light of noonday
To the place where he (well I knew who!) was awaiting me–
A place where none appeared.

Oh, night that guided me,
Oh, night more lovely than the dawn,
Oh, night that joined Beloved with lover,
Lover transformed in the Beloved!

Upon my flowery breast,
Kept wholly for himself alone,
There he stayed sleeping, and I caressed him,
And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze.

The breeze blew from the turret
As I parted his locks;
With his gentle hand he wounded my neck
And caused all my senses to be suspended.

I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher. You can read more of her posts here.

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