THE FOUNDATION OF ANY CALENDAR is the perceived movement and changing relationship of our world relative to its surrounding cosmos. Over several millennia, humankind has imposed upon this seemingly cyclical march a meaning: a story has been envisioned in the dance of heaven, a drama of redemption has been read in the bright/dark spinning of earth, moon, sun and stars. In actuality, of course, this story derives not from the vastness of heaven, but from the center of our own being. The liturgical cycles mankind has marked in time with festivals and calendar seasons, can usefully be examined as reflections of our own interior landscape: they originate within us, and are projected outward from their true source in the human soul.
Aided by the terminology of Jungian depth psychology, the modern Gnostic might regard the quaternary (or "fourfold") structure of the cross as a symbol of wholeness and completion. This ancient manner of ordering the world -- represented also by the four seasons, the four traditional elements, the four points of a compass -- is but a reflection of an archetypal balance within human consciousness, suggested C. G. Jung. This four-fold image of the cross seems to have also found a natural reflection in the Christian liturgical calendar. To the individual striving for an increase of consciousness and personal integration, the ritual life of the Ecclesia offers an ancient mandala of wholeness. In the calendar of the Ecclesia there resides a legacy of wisdom, and a tool of transformation.
Consider the ecclesiastical calendar as a landscape over which we journey year by year. The festivals celebrated in the calendar are features that mark our way, and guide our return. Now, map this landscape with a compass. Let a horizontal beam stretch out across the horizon, separating above from below: summer from winter. Then imagine a vertical beam ascending from earth to heaven, cleaving right from left, and separating spring from fall.
In the temporal realm above the horizontal division of this mandala, there resides (metaphorically) the summer solstice and its season of intense light. Below the horizon-line, opposed to the light, abides the season of the winter solstice with its cold and dark -- images of death and unconsciousness. Thursting across this horizontal division of light and dark, a vertical axis marks a second pair of opposites: the live-giving dawn of spring is juxtaposed with the dusk of autumn and the preparation for death. (It must of course be remembered, that this church calendar took first form in a temperate, northern climate marked by flux of these seasonal variations.) Thus, the yearly ecclesiastical calendar is like the cycle of a human life, or the turning of a day: a journey betwixt light and dark, dusk and dawn. It is a cycle of consciousness reaping realization from the unconscious, rising to the light, and then passing again back to the dark source.
From the four cardinal points of the cross, roughly marked by the two solstices and equinoxes, traditional ecclesistical calendars figured the proper place of other important landmarks. In each season, roughly forty days after the cardinal point (solstice or equinox) a point in times has traditionally been recognized which represents the culmination of forces characteristic of the season. The number forty (the product of two basic numbers of completion, four and ten) has held significance as an important periodicity since ancient times. It was a symbol of trial and testing to the Semitic people, as in the forty years in the desert, or the forty day fast of Christ.
The first major "forty-day" festival that has survived into modern ecclesiastical celebration is the Festival of Candlemas, celebrated on February 2nd (a day now known more vulgarly as "Groundhog Day"). Although actually following 43 days after the winter solstice, it falls exactly forty days from the celebration of Christmas. This forty-day period is the heart of winter, and at it's conclusion on Candlemas, the candles of the church to be used in the coming year are blessed in memory and celebration of the True Light's impending victory.
Forty days after the autumnal equinox, as the world falls again into clutch of winter cold, there comes a series of festivals marked by Halloween, All Saint's Day (the name "Halloween" means simply "saint's day eve"), and All Soul's Day. And again reflecting this forty-day pattern of reckoning seasons, Ascension day is celebrated forty days after Easter Sunday (Easter itself is marked on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox). Ascension day signals completion of the spring-time Easter cycle. (Although not directly represented in our current Christian calendar, another festival should here also be mentioned: folk traditions in Europe celebrated the harvest festival of Lammas forty days after the summer solstice.)
As the liturgical calendar turns through these ancient seasons -- now mostly forgotten by our modern world -- it continues to profer the observant earthly traveler vital spiritual landmarks and waystations, each gracefully designed to guide and nurture the soul on its journey homeward. In this cycle, the travel of the sun through the day, and the earth through the year, become symbolic reckonings of our own journey heavenward. By consciously participating in this timeless mandala of wholeness, we are both aided in discerning the features of the soul's interior landscape, and in discovering anew the eternally abiding story of consciousness awakening within creation's ceaselessly shifting darkness and light.
The Gnostic Liturgical Calendar: A Mandala of Wholeness
THE WINTER SOLSTICE
To begin at the winter solstice is to say that we find ourselves in darkness; psychologically speaking we recognize that we are basically unconscious. December 21st or 22nd is the longest night, a time when the northern world is the quietest. Christmas is a festival of lights because the need for light is greatest at this time. The Scandinavians celebrate St. Lucia, the Maiden of Light, the Great Lady who brings the light to the dark world. It is interesting to ponder that Lucia seems related to Lux, the Latin word for light.
The darkness is the setting needed for the new Light to be born. All the old light must have retreated for the glory of new light to be made manifest, and this is the reason the baby Jesus' birthday must be near the winter solstice. The Light returns but only in infant form, signifying that consciousness returns to the dark psyche. The new Light represents future individuation, and the personality must become the mother to the individuating ego, the future Self. So the powers of personality must pay homage to the great but infantile consciousness. Thus the Holy Mother Mary and the Baby Jesus are parts of the Self that must be recognized as such to be integrated properly. The indwelling Maternal Principle of the body and of the unconscious brings forth the promise of growing enlightenment.
Epiphany is from the Greek words epi, upon, and phainein, to show. Its meaning is a manifestation, and in the Christian mythos this manifestation occurs at the time of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptizer. In the earlier centuries of Christianity, Epiphany was considered to be more important than Christmas, even by the so-called orthodox church. In 447 AD, Pope Leo wrote in his 18th Epistle to the bishops of Sicily about Epiphany. He called it the festival when the Savior is reborn through the descent of the Holy Spirit, and states that the Church Fathers regard this second birth as more important than the first. It seems that the symbolism of the two births, well known to the ancient world and to the early Christians, does not deal only with the person of Jesus but also with the life of every person. We are all born into a physical body, but unless we undergo this second birth in the spirit, our lives will have been in vain. The Epiphany, or showing forth of the inner person, is a spiritual initiation into the mystery of the inner life of the soul, which brings the revelation of the innate divinity of man. It is the discovery of the hero-god resident within our own natures, the recognition on the part of the personality that we are the beloved Sons and Daughters of our Divine Parent in whom the Godhead is well pleased.
Another important feature of the Gnostic tradition of Epiphany is that it is really a feminine holiday. St. Clement of Alexandria (c. 194) mentioned that the followers of the Gnostic master Basilides feasted on the day of the Baptism and kept a long vigil before it. Epiphanius (305-402) gave us a detailed description of how the Alexandrian Gnostics celebrated the Epiphany. They did this in the sanctuary of the Maiden Goddess Kore whom they equated with the image of the Holy Virgin. At midnight they descended with torches into the crypt of the temple and brought the wooden statue of Kore forth in procession. The Maiden was represented naked and sitting, with crosses marked on her brow, her hands and her knees. The statue was carried seven times around the central shrine and was then retired to the crypt once more. The Gnostics said that on this day, Kore, the Virgin, gave birth to the divine principle known as the Christ. It is from the feminine intuitive consciousness and feeling nature that the messianic power, of individuated consciousness is born. Thus the human nature of Jesus or Everyman is transformed into divine and spiritual nature by the holy female power, the Holy Spirit, in the initiation rite of baptism.
After the darkest season of the year, 43 days after the winter solstice, Candlemas is a festival of the coming of the Light. The dark season is passing away, yet the Light has not yet triumphed. In the pagan tradition, the darkness is ruled by the Horned God, Cernunnos, a paternal and virile male deity. To the ancients, this festival symbolized the impregnation of the Goddess or feminine principle by the masculine. The Dark God lights up his house with candles to receive the Light Goddess and impregnate her.
Within the Christian tradition, this is the day when all the candles used during the year are to be blessed in the church. The candle is a symbol for the vehicle of consciousness. One can make oneself a shining receptacle for the creative and regenerative forces. Thus the power of the Dark God can greatly stimulate the personality. We may say that spiritual and intellectual fertility are available to us in great measure. By utilizing the creative force of darkness, we prepare ourselves for the regeneration of consciousness and Light in the coming season.
A flame is a great symbol of consciousness, and the presence of lighted candles serves to remind us that we are sparks of consciousness. Just as the candle's light cannot be seen well in sunlight but needs the darkness to receive the illumination, so our consciousness must be measured by the background of unconsciousness out of which we arise. So it is fitting to bless candles forty days after the darkest day of the year, and to recognize our own dark unconscious beginnings in our journey to the light.
ST. VALENTINUS' DAY
February 14th commemorates the day of St. Valentinus, who is revered as the Father of the Gnosis. Valentinus lived in the second century in Alexandria, Egypt, and founded one of the most eloquent Gnostic schools ever to emerge. Attributed to this school, if not to Valentinus himself, are the Gospels of Philip and Thomas and the Books of the Savior, which include Pistis Sophia and the Gospel of Truth, some of our most important Gnostic literature. Valentinus was so creative a genius that modern scholars refer to the Valentinian system of cosmology as a standard by which other Gnostic systems are compared, and he gave us unequaled descriptions of the structure and workings of the hidden realms of aeons. Valentinus, or the Valentinian school, gave us mysterious images of the Sacrament of the Bridal Chamber, which hinted at the transformative and sublime power of love. Even without a sacramental context to understand exactly what was meant by this term, modern Gnostics may continue to be inspired by the legacy of Gnosis which has survived unto our day. As the more contemporary St. Valentine is remembered as the patron saint of romantic love, so our own Gnostic St. Valentinus reminds us that Gnosis Kardias, the knowledge of the heart, is the highest human attainment, and that human love is one of the greatest avenues of return to divinity.
ASH WEDNESDAY -- THE BEGINNING OF LENT
The purple, so-called penitential season of Lent begins (usually) in mid-February with Ash Wednesday. The word Lent originally comes from the Old English lengten, meaning spring, but has of old referred to the forty-day period preceding Easter, which is the true rite of spring. In early times, people often ran out of food at the end of winter, before spring's thaw yielded fresh foods, so the practice of fasting during this season assuredly had its basis in necessity.
The somber tone of the Lenten cycle draws our attention to the need for inner purification, from which almost everyone can benefit. This cleansing begins with the blessing of the ashes which are then marked in the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the members of the church. The ashes are an outward sign of the temporal nature of the created world. The priest intones the words: "Remember, O Soul, that thy body is dust, and to dust it shall return." It is as if the Christ stands before us to show us what of our being has lasting value and which part passes away. The season of Lent is a time of preparation by cleansing for the Higher Self to come to inhabit our being, and surely divinity must dwell in a clean place, in the purified human heart. In human nature there- is always some dark place of guilt or shame or other low feeling that prevents a person from feeling the joy and love available. Lent may be likened to a therapeutic device for unburdening oneself of low esteem rather systematically. If this is undertaken seriously, one arrives at Holy Week with a profoundly different outlook on one's own relationship to the Christ.
In the Roman tradition there was a strong emphasis on sin and the concept of abasement. But when Gnosis is a person's goal, then the particulars of one's past mistakes are not nearly as important as is the purification of the heart that makes one ready to go on to higher understanding. Focusing on sin really doesn't help one to go beyond that kind of attitude or behavior. But in quiet and somber prayer, one may receive the instruments for rising above the lower self, to participate in the redemption of the world through the Christ, our Lord and Hero.
This date, March 16, is called Montsegur Day in remembrance of the 13th century Gnostics in France, the Cathars or Albigensians. They were the first victims of the Inquisition and were persecuted greatly for their loving heresies. The Cathars made their final stand inside the mountain castle at Montsegur and more than 300 people were burned at the stake on March 16, 1244. Conservative historians estimate that at least 250,000 Cathars died in the persecutions. They were along the finest Christians and the best flowering of Gnosticism the world has ever known, and we remember our connection to them with a solemn Requiem Eucharist. This coincides with the somber Lenten observances.
THE DAY OF HOLY GABRIEL
Celebrated March 24th. The only recognition the "orthodox" church gave to the solstices or equinoxes was to appoint the festivals of the major archangels near to these dates. March 24th is the day of Holy Gabriel the Archangel the herald of good news. Gabriel is said to be the angel who brought the news, or Annunciation, to Mary, the mother of Jesus. It is helpful to attune ourselves to angelic beings as they represent higher aspects of our being.
THE CONCLUSION OF LENT
The Fourth Sunday in Lent is called Rose or Refreshment Sunday, and is celebrated in rose or pink vestments. It is intended to soften the austerity of the work of purification with "fresh lights upon our paths." It is to say to the soul aspiring for Gnosis that, while the task is difficult it is not all difficulty but has some pleasant ways also. If we lose sight of this fact, we stand in grave danger of losing our sense of humor.
PASSION SUNDAY -- THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
The Fifth Sunday of Lent intensifies the drama of Christ's sacrifice. By his passionate love we are drawn into participation and identification with the mystery figure. The image of the Cross looms before us and we are called upon to contemplate the Mystery of the Cross: O life-giving tree, with its roots planted in earth and its fruits treasured in heaven." The Logos, or Christ Principle, is the upright beam and the nature of man is that which crosses it, and the nail in its center is the conversion of man. An instrument of torture reveals itself as a trophy of salvation, and thus the stage is set for a Gnostic understanding of the great and sacred drama of Holy Week.
THE VERNAL EQUINOX.
Equinox is from the Latin aequus, equal, and nox, night. Vernis is the Latin word for spring, and the vernal equinox occurs around March 21st, sometimes on the 22nd. When the length of daylight and night is exactly twelve hours each, all over the world then is the equinox point. The ancients considered this moment of poised balance to be quite magical, and it was thought to be the true beginning of spring, even in the northernmost climates where spring might have been two to three months away. We might say that psychologically the vernal equinox heralds the return of the light of day, and myth represented this as the return of the Solar Hero. At dawn the departure of the night is announced, with the promise that the Light ever increases. The dawn is said to be the crack between the underworld and the overworld, a moment when mankind may address itself to the rulers of the regions below or to the heavens above. At this magical instant. what was old and dark is reborn in newness, and every symbol of birth and early youth lends veracity to this image.
The spring equinox doesn't usually coincide exactly with Easter, but clearly their intent and meaning are related. While the ancients symbolically recognized the renewal of the earth in spring, we may participate in the renewal of inner being through Christ our Solar Hero. With him we descended into the dark depths of the underworld of unconsciousness, and with him at Easter we return to the Light realms with greater consciousness than we previously possessed. We have the opportunity to transfer our identity to the Christ consciousness, if only for a few brief hours, in the dramatic portrayal of the Easter cycle if we can allow ourselves to participate fully in the sacred drama.
PALM SUNDAY -- HOLY WEEK BEGINS
Holy Week begins on Palm Sunday with the keynote of the temporary triumph of the Light before its obscuration. The palm branch is of old a symbol of royalty, and the waving palm is a salute to a king. We aspire to recognize the sovereign Logos as he enters the city of our being and to remain faithful to him. Yet the fateful story tells that as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the elders were already planning his death. So the plight of our Hero reminds us that the accolades of the world are really worth very little. The world cries "Hosanna" one day and "Kill him" the next, and this example should illustrate that our highest achievements are not in the world of matter, i.e., economics, politics, or society. Rather we should focus on the inner worlds where our sovereignty may grow into its full stature, where the Christ within may govern all of nature.
"Mandate Thursday" enacts the event of Jesus the Christ giving us the sacrament of the Eucharist. First the Savior washes the feet of the disciples, showing that those who aspire to Gnosis must serve others to accomplish it. So also does the bishop or priest wash the people's feet on this day. Then Jesus reveals himself as the Eternal High Priest in a mystery, and we observe this in the course of the Eucharist just after the consecration. In the monstrance, or sunburst cross, the church keeps a consecrated Host for the service of Benediction, the Adoration of the Body of God. During the Maundy Thursday mass, the Host is refreshed for the next year and the old one is consumed. Now we deepen our understanding of what is meant by "The Body and Blood of the Logos." Reverence and adoration are unpopular sentiments in a secular culture but are essential to our access to the mysteries. Here Jesus states these holy words, "I am the Bread of life; I am the living Bread which came down from Heaven; if any man eat of this Bread he shall live forever," Jesus was not referring to cannibalism.
Good Friday is the greatest festival in all of the Catholic traditions, and there are many levels at which to understand it. Tradition of old declares that from Gethsemane, Jesus is delivered into the hands of the Romans and, although they can find no fault in him, they crucify him and he dies on the cross. All the disciples are thrown into confusion and the world is cast into darkness. But the Gnosis teaches that John the Beloved Disciple went up to a nearby mountain to contemplate what has happened. Jesus appeared to him in a radiant light and laughed at the dismal scene below them. Then Jesus revealed to John the fullness of his mystery. Jesus told the disciples to dance, saying, "He who danceth not, knoweth not what is taking place."
The Good Friday ritual of the Ecclesia Gnostica contains ancient Gnostic teachings about the mysteries of the aeons, or the true psychological foundation of our nature, and it is danced in a circle. Like all Gnostic teachings, it must be experienced to be at all understood. The image of the Cross is central to the mystery.
This is the period between the crucifixion and the resurrection In the Middle Ages the clerics and monks of the church performed sacred drama called "Everyman" plays, and one of the best known was called "The Harrowing of Hell." In this play, Jesus goes down in Hell and confronts Satan and conquers him. Then the Savior's Light touches all of the souls captured in Hell, he breaks down the gates of Hell, and leads them all out into the upper realm. It is very helpful to participate in the Harrowing of Hell on Holy Saturday.
On this day the ceremony of the Blessing of the Fire is done. The sanctuary of the church is made dark to signify the Savior's descent into the dark regions. A fire is kindled outside the church and is blessed with incense. Then the fire lights a triple candle and together with a cross, a priest and a deacon process into the sanctuary, signifying the return of the Light. From the triple candle, then the lights of the church are re-lit, including the Paschal or Easter candle. This act may visually reinforce the experience of Christ as the Light of the World.
The resurrection of the Logos at the dawn of Being is an eternal moment, in a sense always happening. Yet with the preparation of our inner life through the dramatization of Lent and Holy Week, we stand in a much better perspective to comprehend it. The historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth of 2000 years ago is a symbol for a quality of potential being within the human heart, and the Gnostic tradition strives to bring this quality of Being into consciousness in the individual. By descending into our own Hell and rescuing the lost sparks of consciousness trapped down there, we may accomplish the great task of redeeming ourselves from unconsciousness, but we dare not arrogantly think that we do this by ourselves. Rather it is done in a mystery, and the Logos is the example par excellence of the means and the goal of the work.
The Sundays following Easter are intended to bring home the impact, so to speak, of the radiant images of the great accomplishments of the Savior. The keynotes are: the Wealth of Spirit. Asking for Divine Grace, Divine Protection, Divine Aid toward Liberation, and Recognition of the Human Potential for Liberation.
COMMEMORATION OF THE PROPHET MANI
Celebrated April 25th, this day commemorates the birth of the Holy Prophet Mani. In Persia around the third century emerged a prophet who taught a religion around the experience of Light. His followers were called the Manichaeans and are considered to be our Gnostic predecessors. Their hymns to the Light and their image of the Light-Twin are a wonderful inspiration to modern Gnostics. Wouldn't the Manichaeans delight in our technology in airbrush painting and celluloid animation?
Forty days after Easter is the Ascension, and the forty day cycle of the Resurrection culminates in yet another image of the living Savior. Having come from the lower regions to earth at Easter, now the Logos rises up to the heavenly realms or to the Pleroma, the Fullness. Here Jesus has already overcome the rulers of the world and the powers of personality, and now shows us that our task is not complete until we accomplish the return to the highest realms.
On Ascension Day the Paschal candle is formally extinguished in token that we ascend thither in heart and mind to dwell with him continually.
Also known as Whitsunday, Pentecost follows immediately after the Ascension, and is a festival of the descent of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." As Jesus returns to the Pleroma, the image of the Dove from the heights brings us the promise of his peace. Always, the Holy Spirit is the feminine presence of God, the Comforter, called "The Shekinah" in Hebrew mysticism. She is the fulfillment of the sacredness of life, and through Her most holy power, all of life becomes sanctified. This day is one of the primary dates for the ceremony of confirmation, the initiation of fire and the intuitive function.
Trinity Sunday follows the week after Pentecost, and begins season of "ordinary time" which follows Trinity Sunday and continues until November. The rituals of this season begin by celebrating the threefold nature of Divine Being: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the mystery that was from the beginning that seeks completion in us. Each of the Sundays in Trinity season has a special keynote, such as the Transforming Power of the Holy Spirit, God as Light, God as Love, Steadfast Devotion, Renewal of Spirit, etc. As on every Sunday, the collect, lesson and gospel are designed to bring out the intention of the day and bring these qualities to our attention so that we may live them more consciously.
THE SUMMER SOLSTICE
June 21st marks the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. All over the world the summer solstice has been observed with the building of bonfires, usually atop a high hill. It symbolizes the blazing Light of consciousness and enjoins the participants to become conscious of the Light. The summer warmth brings the flowering of the earth, and this is the time when consciousness is most externalized. We find joy in the blessings of the sun, and it is fitting to give praise and thanks to God for our lives. The feast of the Archangel Uriel occurs at this time.
THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIZER
St. John's Day falls on June 24th, and in many countries of Europe the solstice bonfire came to be called St. John's Fire. St. John is a great mystery figure and was called by the Mandaeans "The Man of Light." Even to the early Christian/Pagan mind there was a strong need to experience the great bonfire light and revere a sainted Man of Light therein. St. John was a teacher who initiated people into the lesser mysteries, preparing them to receive the higher initiation from Christ. Thus we may receive an inner initiation into the solstice mystery by deepening our perception of the Light.
HOLY MARY MAGDALENE'S DAY is celebrated on July 22nd.
This begins a summer cycle of feminine holidays, going into early September. Mary Magdalene is the consort of Jesus, and the Gnostic scriptures say that she was the one to whom Jesus revealed the fullness of his teaching. She represents the archetypal Feminine Principle manifested in humanity which has been despised and scorned by the non-knowers of this world. In the Gnostic tradition, the stature of women is elevated as in few other faiths, and this is the reason that Mary Magdalene's Day is a very important festival.
Lammas, on July 31st, falls the forty-day festival after the summer solstice and is a harvest festival. In Europe, people traditionally dedicated the first fruits of their harvest to God. By this action it was recognized that the fruits of life all come from the hidden source. To show proper thanksgiving, the best that one has should be offered back to God. We recognize that the efforts of the work of becoming conscious are beginning to come to fruition, and we must be ready to gather in the results of our labors. We must keep in mind the need for completing the process so we may fully profit thereby. This is a reminder that, even though we may not feel that we're becoming more conscious, the process will have its results and we must keep working to that end, and be ready to receive it when the products of our work come.
THE DAY OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
The Day of the Transfiguration is on August 6th. At this time "Jesus took his disciples up onto a mountain and there was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun and his raiment was white as the light." (Matthew 17:3) This image of Jesus surrounded and filled with Light speaks of the restoration of human life with the Pleroma or divine life. By this image we have the promise that we shall be restored to the Pleroma in the process of Gnosis. We shall in due time be transfigured ourselves and thus be liberated from darkness.
THE ASSUMPTION OF THE HOLY SOPHIA
The Assumption of the Holy Sophia into the Pleroma is commemorated on August 15th. This correlates in the orthodox church with the (bodily Assumption of the Virgin Mary, a recent addition to the Roman liturgical life. The ancient Gnostic scriptures tell of Sophia, the feminine aspect of the highest God, who wanders out of heaven and gets lost in the lower regions. By singing praises to the Light, she is rescued by the Savior and he aids her return to heaven by a mystery. In our psychological perspective, we are cast out of the Fullness of Being to become differentiated egos. By the mystery figure of the Logos we are able to individuate and return to the state of Wholeness. Thus Sophia's plight is our own, and by her example we may be inspired to continue on our path.
THE DESCENT OF THE HOLY SOPHIA
The Descent of the Holy Sophia falls on September 8th. In the Roman calendar this day celebrates the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and prefigures the sacred birth of Jesus. In the Gnostic tradition, part of Sophia returns to the aeons, to her true home, and part of her being symbolically returns to the lower regions or to earth. She comes to earth to be with us, her children, to be our consolation and the inspiration of our love. By this image we have the promise that we are not left alone in our darkness but have Sophia's abiding presence in our lives.
THE AUTUMNAL EQUINOX
The second annual point of perfect balance between day and night falls on September 21st. At this time, going and returning are seen as one movement; the dualities are dispelled and are brought into equilibrium. When the opposites are balanced, symbolically the relationship between the God and the Goddess is again consummated is the Bridal Chamber. But from this point, consciousness begins to descend into the underworld, into darkness and unconsciousness. We must be willing to make the downward journey into the depths of our being; in order to find the true breadth of our souls.
THE FESTIVAL OF HOLY MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
Celebrated on September 29th. The angelic warrior and his flaming two-edged sword stand in defense of the Light in the great aeonial battle between the Dark Power and the Light. St. Michael the Archangel upholds one of the four pillars of the universe in balance, and mercilessly cuts away the paths that lead to darkness. He is the enlightener, the invincible Leader of the Heavenly Hosts. We may call upon him to aid us in our earthly battles, for the supplication of the angels brings the mediators between human and divine realms.
ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI DAY
Celebrated on October 4th. The example of this gentle saint reminds of the glorious relatedness of all of creation, of the expression of divinity through the elements: sun, water, clouds and air, fire and light, darkness and earth. By his humble service he was one of the greatest pinnacles of humanity. On his day we say blessings for animals and are reminded that our own animal nature may be seen in the lives of animals, and that kindness toward animals is not insipid sentimentality but necessary for the wholeness of Being.
THE DAY OF THE MARTYRDOM OF THE HOLY TEMPLARS
The Templars are commemorated on October 13th, celebrated either in red for the martyrs or in black for Requiem. We call to mind some of the various noble knights who upheld the Light of Gnosis through the darkness of the Middle Ages, remembering that true chivalry is the hallmark of a Gnostic, and an example of life that is devoted to the service of God. Charity and mildness are important, but to accomplish the tasks of life we are also required to be warriors and knights, to be able to lift either the chalice or the sword as life demands.
Halloween, October 31st is forty days after the autumnal equinox and marks our descent into the underworld. Now we must come face to face with the shadows and all the unconscious life within us. While this is really a pagan and secular festival, it corresponds to our liturgical observance of the dead, because the need to face death is great in us. In looking at the dark underworld of our being, we perform the sacred task of redeeming the lost, forgotten parts of ourselves and of humanity. Only by so doing will we be able to grasp the energy needed to accomplish the great tasks of life. This is a time to loosen our rational hold on conscious shadows, ever keeping one eye on our further aims of greater consciousness. A good Halloween party is both fun and at times serious.
ALL SAINTS' DAY
All Saints Day, November 1st, is the age-old festival of the Church Triumphant. We give thanks for the existence of those people who attained to the perfect insight of their divine souls, and we pray "that in the fullness of the time of our perfection, we might join the ranks of (Gods) Leaders of Light " So do the saints hold lamps on our path of return, showing us the way to the Fullness within the tradition of the Catholic Church. We, the living, are the Church Militant, still fighting the battle between the light and darkness. All Souls' Day commemorates the departed, called the Church Suffering, being those souls who did not achieve God-consciousness in their lifetime and thus were doomed to torment in the unconscious realm.
ALL SOULS' DAY
All Souls Day, November 2nd, is observed with the General Requiem Eucharist. We pray for all the souls of those departed from this life and make a bridge between the worlds of the living and the dead. We may also see that we are in the state of death in unconsciousness and we are striving to become fully alive in Gnosis. Thus we pray for the dead within us and without us.
THE DAY OF ALL GNOSTIC SAINTS
The Day of All Gnostic Saints, is November 20th. This time is set aside to teach of all those who have helped keep alive the Gnosis throughout the ages, so that aspiring modern Gnostics will know that many came before us in this work. Many of them were martyrs, people who stood up for what they knew to be the Truth, and paid for it with their lives. Martyrdom is not an ideal in itself in the Gnostic tradition, because living for the Truth is much harder than dying for it, yet we should remember those lights of Gnosis who gave all they had and could do no other. Also, we are aware that many people worked for Gnosis in their lifetimes and never received recognition for it; "those, known or unknown, who held aloft the light of Truth through the darkness of human ignorance," as the Sufi prayer goes. By attuning ourselves to the Gnostic saints, we become more permeable to unseen and unknown aid.
This holiday is celebrated with the rest of the United States on the fourth Thursday of November. It seems that we need a special time set aside to express our gratitude for the blessings life bestows upon us, although it should be a daily practice. The remembrance begins with a Eucharist of Thanksgiving, usually followed by a joyous feast. While enjoying the repast, it becomes us to remember that much of humanity goes without sufficient nourishment. In addition to our expression of gratitude, we may become more aware of the millions of people who
THE ADVENT SEASON
Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas Day. The somber color of purple sets the tone for a season of preparation. In the heart of silence, one undertakes the darkness to prepare a habitation for the coming Light. We seek the birth of God within the soul, awaiting the treasure in purity and devotion. Without this inner preparation we are in no position to receive the glorious Child of Light or to understand his message.
THE DAY OF HOLY NICHOLAS, BISHOP OF MYRA
Celebrated December 6th, St. Nicholas is traditionally the patron saint of children and of mariners. He died in his city in Asia Minor about 350 AD and has been popularly celebrated all over Europe and Asia Minor. His life set such an example of love, especially for children, and of service to God, that he has inspired Christians for 1600 years. Many legends of miracles attributed to him continue to the present day. He is the original Santa Claus, St. Nicholas.
THE DAY OF THE HOLY APOSTLE THOMAS
Celebrated December 21st. The Gnostic scriptures teach that Thomas understood deeply the mysteries that Jesus imparted to this disciples, and the Gospel of Thomas is a major Gnostic work. It seems this was not understood or not appreciated by the orthodox church, which excluded his gospel from the canonical New Testament. He is mentioned many times in other Gnostic scriptures as being one who had Gnosis. The beautiful story called both "The Hymn of the Pearl' and "The Hymn of the Robe of Glory" is attributed to him.
THE DAY OF HOLY RAPHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
Celebrated December 22nd. Raphael is the angel of healing and health, and is always invoked in the Sacrament of Unction. Raphael represents the principle of regeneration as related to the powers of health and also the regeneration of the Light in the realm of darkness. Thus Raphael has been celebrated in our tradition at the winter solstice, because when the darkness has reached its epitome, it engenders the renewed Light, which is then "born" on Christmas Day.
The Mass of Christmas is best observed liturgically as a midnight mass on December 24th, so that people can experience the darkness to contrast the birth of the Christ-Light. Tradition of old has given us much to celebrate in ritual, music, and singing. While the joyousness and the mystery of Christmas can elevate people greatly, let the Gnostic pause to remember that the infant Christ can be born in the soul, there to be nurtured by the person as a mother suckles her infant, so that the Christ consciousness may grow into its full stature in the life of mankind.
NEW YEAR'S EVE
December 31st, is observed with a Eucharist of Thanksgiving for suitable preparation to enter the New Year. A party most assuredly follows.
This, then, is a most brief outline of the liturgical year. In consideration of the context, much was omitted that could have, or perhaps should have, been said. The author's intention is to give an overview without too much detail to show that the church has a framework for the ongoing expression of the life of the soul. It cannot be overstressed that to really gain from this framework, one must supply a diligent participation and devotion, not because the church needs bodies to fill its pews, but because the growth of the individual psyche can benefit from a meaningful structure. In other words, the church exists for us and can only lend its aid if we avail ourselves of it.