Happy Winter Solstice!
Last night, while driving home, I decided to follow the moon, a thin rind of an orange slice glowing as if the light it was reflecting was lava smoldering on its surface. It was but a glimmer of a moon, but it was so attractive that I followed it. Before I could reach a vista, the moon repelled below a wall of redwoods on a ridge, vanishing from the sky, as if to direct my attention to the stars. To take in the clear night sky, I parked on a desolate country road among the vineyards. I leaned against my car and looked up at the clusters and constellations, recalling the words of Leopardi’s “Night Song of a Wandering Shepard in Asia”.
And when I gaze upon you [the moon],
Or watch the stars that shine there in the sky,
Musing, I say within me:
“Wherefore those many lights,
That boundless atmosphere,
And infinite calm sky? And what the meaning
Of this vast solitude? And what am I?”
Questions of my own existence, my own path flowed through my mind, sometimes like a bubbling brook, other times like a flooding river, disturbing as the sound of cars in the distance.
Today, the shortest day of the year, the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas, “Doubting Thomas” as history recalls him. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the solstice and the feast than going to Solemn High Mass and documenting it.
Normally my church doesn’t have Mass Thursday nights, but it was sort of a practice run for Christmas Eve. Solemn High Mass is the “full ceremonial form the Tridentine Mass.” Basically your regular Latin Mass with extra “bells and whistles” and a bunch more altar servers. It was nice to see many friends and familiar faces up on the altar in their black cassocks, while I stood below in my black slacks and jacket, my photography gig attire. Even though I cannot go on the altar, I go around it, even behind it, and with my camera, I can zoom my vision as though I were on the altar. I appreciate this call sort of to serve at the altar, which is why one of my hashtags is #adaltaredeicumcamera (#tothealtarofgodwithcamera).
Anyway, back to Doubting Thomas. Why does the Church celebrate this person who didn’t trust what was right before his eyes. He had the facts right in front of him, but he didn’t connect the facts with relationship. But the Risen Christ let Thomas physically touch him, and this physical contact awakened Thomas’s awareness of that relationship and the Person with whom he shares that relationship. Thomas just needed time. “The shepherds [following the star to Bethlehem] needed time; they needed to make a journey. Even Mary needed time to ponder the mystery in her heart. We need time. Humans need time. God has become human; he accompanies us in time” (Richard Veras).
Sometimes it seems that there’s not even a moon to reflect the sun to illuminate my way. Sometimes clouds block the celestial map of the stars, hindering my metaphysical navigation. Sometimes the only certainty I have is that I exist and I am on a path that is indeed my own, even if I can’t always see it. St. Thomas Day affirms my innate inclination to ask questions, to seek answers. It’s a call to not suppress the musings within me. We all go through dark times of doubt and despair, but as we know the light of the sun will lengthen our days, so too the answers will arise. In time.