Cycles of Death and Rebirth

In Ceremonies of the Seasons, Jennifer Cole writes, “All calendars are founded upon a wish to organize our experience of time into manageable units—especially the year, with its recognizable seasonal landmarks.” She goes on to point to a “curious contradiction” about the movement of time: We are surrounded by “reliable repetition” and “constant change.” Just think of the tidal and lunar cycles, animal migrations, and vegetation cycles that mark the passage of time with regularity.

As I read Cole’s observations, I pondered the fact that our calendars tell us stories, and those stories can in turn help us think about why we have developed elaborate rituals to mark some celebrations and not others.

I notice three things about November. First, in the United States, November contains three civic “high holy days”: Election Day, Veterans Day, and Thanksgiving. Second, if we think globally, we’ll notice that during late autumn there are many celebrations that honor the ending of the harvest, the turning of life toward death, and the choice of good over evil—Day of the Dead, Halloween, Diwali, All Saints’ Day, and Chung Yeung are all examples.

In our society we idolize militarism and greed, routinely forgetting that our nation’s prosperity comes at the expense of others’ lives and welfare. Is there a way for us to recover a deep sense of the life-death-life cycle so central to our faith—and an inescapable part of all life—that can also birth social change?

Malinda Elizabeth Berry is a dissertation fellow at Goshen College in Goshen, Indiana.

November 4

Truthful Seeing

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4;

Psalm 119:137-144; 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12; Luke 19:1-10

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Sojourners Magazine November 2007
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