Flying back in to Gatwick last week, expecting to see bare trees and a cold, grey landscape I was amazed as I looked down at the stunning colours on the treetops, a rare event in late October, when autumn winds and rain have usually stripped the leaves by now. And my delight has continued as Selkie and I have re-acquainted ourselves with walks along the riverbank. Some of the images reflect these past few days of glorious colour and early morning light.
I’m back to my usual last minute blog writing, the past 6 weeks having been unusually busy with travel for various events – a 60th birthday party, a memorial service, visiting a close friend I hadn’t seen for a year, and, finally, a holiday on Menorca.
On the back foot again, fortuitiously the date gave me a perfect opening, as I was remembered something Cynthia Bourgeault posted last year as an alternative approach to Hallowe-en. She calls it a “Fall Triduum” (Triduum meaning “3 days” in the Catholic tradition – and hopefully I will post this blog before the end of these 3 days!). In the Catholic tradition the Easter Triduum is the three days before Easter Day, from Maundy Thursday to Easter Saturday.
She writes “Both spring and fall Triduums deal with that passage from death to life which is at the heart of the Christian mystical path, and in fact, all mystical paths. …. At Easter the days are lengthening, the earth is springing forth with new life, and ….resurrection is sort of a no-brainer, …In the Fall Triduum the movement is more inward, against the grain. The days are shortening (literally as of today), the leaves are fallen (well, as we’ve noted not quite yet), and the earth draws once again into itself. Everything in the natural world confronts us with reminders of our mortality. ….In this dark and inward season there is little that encourages us to somersault over death right into resurrection; we must linger in the dark…. These fall Triduum days are an invitation to do the profound inner work: to face our shadows and deep fears, to taste that in ourselves which already lies beyond death, then to move back into our lives again, both humbled and steadied in that which lies beyond both light and dark… What better tilling of the inner soil for the mystery of Incarnation, which lies just ahead.”
One way in which I “till the inner soil” is with a group of women who meet here fortnightly to ponder, reflect and meditate on a saying from the gospel of Thomas. We’ve been meeting for 3 years now, and the group is fairly constant. So there has been a real deepening of insight in these sessions, as we’ve grown to trust one another. It’s a live “wisdom group”!
This week we looked at logion 24, part of which goes like this “Light shines out from the center of a being of light And illuminates the whole cosmos. Whoever fails to become light Is a source of darkness”. Some of our initial pondering centred around behaviour, or what we do or don’t do. But as we deepened our understanding through meditation, we started to see it more as a call to become our True Selves – which means we have to address the false self or shadow before we can land on that shore. It’s not about “getting rid” of the shadow self: if we look at it in a unitive way, we never lose our shadow, we just become more familiar with it, so that we begin to know when we are acting out.
Another insight was that light is not a fixed property, it’s rather a process, which one of us said felt right for her – it’s the process of transformation that is the journey we’re all on. That also reminded me of a story Cynthia tells to illustrate this: an unlit candle is tallow and wick, it can’t light itself, the light only comes when the wick is lit and the tallow burns. It’s something we have to allow, not something we can engineer.
So maybe rather than tut tut about Hallowe-en, or get caught up into frantic activity around it, there is the possibility of keeping these 3 days for a kind of “rite of passage” as we journey into the darkness, using Hallowe’en as a time to acknowledge the false self, our dark side, then to allow ourselves to be in that thin place between heaven and earth on All Saints Day, and to return, remembering along the way loved ones no longer with us, prepared to live more deeply and courageously knowing that the same inner light is in every human being.
As nights draw in early, and fires are lit, I might light a candle over these next three days as a reminder of this season and the interplay of light and dark at this time of year, all the time being at the ready for the trick or treaters knocking at the door!