A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about the mysteries of Christmas, and it turned out to be rather popular. Since people seem to be interested, I thought I might expand and illuminate even further.
What exactly do we mean when we say “the mysteries?” Well, a mystery — with a little “m” — is a riddle or a puzzle. But when we say the Mysteries — with a big “M” — we are talking about the wondrous things we feel when we put ourselves inside a myth and allow ourselves to fully experience it as if we are present. The word mystery comes to us from Greek musterion and Latin mysterium where it means “a secret rite or ritual.”
Mysteries are at the center all of the great and enduring spiritual traditions. When the Mysteries depart a tradition, its heart ceases to beat, the body of the teaching dies, and rigor is soon to follow.
The Masonic Mysteries consist of putting initiates inside the myths of Hiram, one of the architects of the Temple of Solomon. The Wiccan Mysteries involve, among other things, experiencing various myths that unpack the Wheel of the Year and the natural cycles it symbolizes. There are the Sikh Mysteries that involve singing of the divine names, Hindu Mysteries, Buddhist Mysteries, and so forth. Cabal Fang also has it’s Mysteries, which we call “trials.”
Perhaps Christianity owes some of it’s enduring popularity to the fact that it is positively thick with Mysteries, having perhaps more Mysteries than any other tradition since Greco-Roman paganism. One of the most powerful and pervasive is the Christmas Mystery. If you would like to participate there are two very simple methods.
The first method is to begin by reading the nativity presented in the Gospel of Luke. Then immediately close your Bible, assume your chosen meditative posture, and close your eyes. Imagine the story as if you are a participant, letting it play out in your mind. Imagine you are there, and really allow yourself to feel what it would have been like to have been present at the birth of Jesus.
The second method is of course to simply go to a public nativity scene and allow yourself to fully experience what it would have been like had you actually been present.
I would not dare put words in the mouth of the famous mystic Saint Francis of Assisi. However I do believe that he was intentionally creating a great Mystery — that he really wanted people to be present in the moment of the birth of Jesus — when he invented the concept of a live nativity in 1223 AD.
For Hermeticists like myself, these Winter Solstice holidays are brothers and sisters in spirit. So it doesn’t matter so much which Winter Solstice myth you choose — it can be the Death of the Oak King and rebirth of the Holly King, the birth of Horus to his mother Isis, the birth of Baldur to his mother Frigga, etc. — as long as you pick one and allow yourself to fully experience it.
Being fully “present” in the holiday is the best Christmas “present” there is.