Tidings from the West
Tidings from the West Brethren,
This is an auspicious time of year. We start a new Masonic year shortly after the winter solstice, which is also a time for reflection and recommitment to some of our most cherished Masonic virtues. The winter solstice also known for the shortest day of the year, was anciently a time of celebration, where the blazing fires were lit in hopes of encouraging a return of the sun, celebrated by the vernal equinox.
Perhaps it is out of this celebration that the thought and practice of making New Year’s resolutions came about. I have not found a direct correlation, but the pattern is there for all to see. Like most of us, I have made New Year’s resolutions in the past, but they never seemed to stick more than a month or so, and then it’s back to the same patterns as before.
But the masonic virtues give us a perfect solution … that of simply being a better man. Simple, yet difficult. It requires almost daily moments of self-reflection. Some day’s we succeed and some day’s we fail, but we are still human after all, and it’s the vector that is important not the momentary failures or successes.
This reminds me of one of the Four Agreements that author Don Miguel Ruiz so eloquently wrote about in his book of the same title.
Always Do Your Best - Your Best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.
As brothers in the craft, this is timely wisdom we can apply.
Study Notes for January
- The winter solstice is celebrated at this time in the northern hemisphere but it is now time to celebrate the summer solstice (Litha) in the southern hemisphere due to the seasonal differences.
- Yule, (pronounced EWE-elle) is when the dark half of the year relinquishes to the light half. Starting the next morning at sunrise, the sun climbs just a little higher and stays a little longer in the sky each day. Known as Solstice Night, or the longest night of the year, the sun's "rebirth" was celebrated with much joy.
- It's the time of the vernal equinox if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and it's a true marker that Spring and warmer, sunnier days have come
- Despite the tradition’s religious roots, New Year’s resolutions today are a mostly secular practice. Instead of making promises to the gods, most people make resolutions only to themselves, and focus purely on self-improvement
- The Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.
- In the Medieval era, the knights took the "peacock vow" at the end of the Christmas season each year to re-affirm their commitment to chivalry.
- At watchnight services, many Christians prepare for the year ahead by praying and making these resolutions.
Kenneth J. Noorlander