I’m not a scientist or a cosmologist – far from it – but I do get a floaty feeling when my thoughts turn to the skies. A few very articulate physicists have become quite media savvy and are able to share mind-bendingly über numbers, scales and measurements conveying a human perspective on the grandness of space. On the very odd occasion, I am able to grasp some understanding of the stars and the skies. Today, I discovered, is not only St Patrick’s Day (the Patron Saint of Ireland) but it is also the equilux.
Fellow sky watchers should beware that the equilux is not the equinox, even though my computer’s corrective text application thinks it is! The equinox is, I am reliably informed, the moment when the earth passes a particular point in its orbit around the sun. In spring this is called the vernal equinox. In comparison, the equilux (equal light) is the moment in the year when their is equal light and darkness – 12 hours each – on a given day (and night). Today is the day, whilst the spring equinox takes place in 3 days time.
Our liturgical calendar is also influenced by the movement of the stars. Jesus’ resurrection was recorded to have taken place at around the time of the Jewish Passover, which in turn was celebrated during the first full moon of the vernal equinox. The timing of Easter, then, is dependant upon the first full moon after the spring equinox. Easter Sunday takes place the Sunday after the full moon. So, the Church has adopted the Jewish tradition in maintaining a link with the pattern of the lunar sky.
Light and darkness have more than just a symbolic meaning within the seasons of Lent and Easter. As we experience the balance between light and dark in the present moment we also reflect upon the Easter light which cannot be diminished. It is as if these dark, foreboding, wilderness days are leading us to a greater purpose and energy:
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1: 3b-5)
The darkness is also of God. We need the balance of light and dark. We need to rest, to sleep, to slow down. Darkness enables us to hibernate when we need to. But as someone who might suffer a little from seasonal affected disorder (SAD), I can rejoice today because I know that the light will overcome darkness. In terms of my weak but searching faith, I also know that Christ, the greater light, illumines the way of all who try and walk his path. It is no surprise therefore that my favourite hymn of praise is the Exaltet. Sung on Holy Saturday, the Easter fire still alight in a darkened church, the congregation light their candles from the new Paschal Candle. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself… but I can’t wait!
Find out all about the opportunities to grow our faith this Lent by clicking here to read our Sunday sheets.