Sunday, June 24, 2007

Perfect Circle

This is the time of the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Its opposite comes at Midwinter, just before Christmas. We follow the wheel of the year, from solstice to solstice: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) The disc of the sun forms to our eyes a perfect circle - a picture of completion, of wholeness.

At the time of the summer solstice we celebrate the nativity of John the Baptist. John bears witness to the light. He prepares the way of the Lord, proclaims the way of peace. He proclaims the good news of the mercy of God to be embodied in Jesus Christ.

This is a season – as much as the winter solstice is – of the victory of the light of God. As Advent marks the fallow fields of winter, so this season marks the ripening for harvest – the harvest of the kingdom of peace, the gathering-in of the followers of the way of the Lord.

John baptizes the people, symbolizes their farewell to the old life and their welcome into the new way of being.

How are we to live this out? John himself focuses on practical matters. He told soldiers to be content with their pay and not force bribes from the poor. Let the one who has two cloaks, he said, give one to the person who has none at all. And a more radical departure from worldly norms was on its way with Jesus.

Six months before Jesus’ birth, his harbinger John appears. For the peoples of the earth summer has always been a time of fulfillment – here it becomes a time of promise. What is ripening?

On the Eve of the Nativity of St John the Baptist, the light of Christ is proclaimed at its zenith, six months before the Savior is born.

When I was in high school auto shop we had an old advertisement on the wall for Perfect Circle® piston rings. They began & ended at the same place. They were true – that is, they were not wobbly or warped or flawed. They were not, however, complete. To slip the ring onto the piston there is a little gap. You have to start somewhere. Then, when you are in place, you can do your job.

We can begin where we are, and we can start today. From here we can go on through the year, go on through the circle, the daily round, to a completion – that brings us back to the true starting point of all circles, the center.

Christ is the center: and yet he who was perfect was broken that we might be made whole. He made a gap through which we can enter – into the endless circle of divine life. It’s a perfect circle. And we are invited to take part.

Look at the Trinity icon, at the gazes of the three angels going around and around in a circle of hospitality and love. Theirs is a journey that is always complete, always beginning, always ending, always starting anew – and always welcoming us to join. The Trinity icon shows us the hospitality of God, giving rest to the traveler & strength to the weary, giving us all food for the journey.

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