Today is May Day. It is also a day when people celebrate the Gaelic holiday, Beltane. It is one of those holidays that marks a time halfway between an equinox and a solstice. The actual date from a solar perspective is more like May 5th.
Beltane and May Day celebrate the coming forth of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. They are part of the Easter cycle, especially this year. Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of life. It occurred two weeks ago in Western Christianity and a week ago for Eastern Christianity. Then today, it is May Day and the celebration of Beltane.
From a Christian perspective, Beltane is a pagan holiday. But at the heart of Beltane is a solar event, not just cultural history or religious belief. It is an acknowledgment of the movement of the earth around the sun.
As cosmic travelers riding on the Planet Earth Express, we move through space at fantastic speeds. We are spinning around the earth’s axis at up to 1,037 miles an hour. We are orbiting around the sun at 67,000 miles an hour. And with the rest of our solar system, we are whirling `round the center of the Milky Way Galaxy at 490,000 miles an hour.
These speeds seem fantastic until you realize the scale at which they are being achieved. The speeds are proportionate to the colossal size of the celestial bodies involved.
This cosmic journey does not stop for anyone. There is no Wait, wait, wait! I’m not ready! The earth just keeps on moving in the universal order of things. We are cosmic travelers, and we do not have much choice in the matter.
We are on the planet, after all. There was the 1961 musical Stop the World—I Want to Get Off, expressing the human tendency to bail on the movement of life. There has been some talk of going to Mars. But, for the most part, we cannot get off Planet Earth. We are along for the ride, like it or not. And yet, something in the human spirit can give up. We can find some kind of human distraction that is not part of this grand movement of life.
Beltane is a reminder to get with the program. It’s spring, folks! So, whatever is going on for us, whatever we got bogged down with over the winter—whatever anxiety, depression, or confusion has gotten hold of us—Beltane is a reminder to shake it off.
The Maypole reminds us of our journey around the sun. Let us move with the program of life.
And that is what Easter celebrates, is it not? It celebrates a man who moved with life, who brought life, was life, and would not stop. And he called to the people around him to do the same—to come forth from a tomblike state of living. He called forth life.
There is the story of Jesus and Lazarus. Lazarus was thought to be dead. So he was placed in a tomb, and there was a stone in front of the tomb.
When I originally heard this story, I thought there must have been a massive boulder in front of something like a cave. And then I wondered, How could you roll away the stone?
Actually, the stone was in a grooved track, and it was apparently small enough that a person could move it.
In the record of the story of Lazarus, Jesus addresses people around the tomb.
Take away the stone.
It is an epic command. It is symbolic to every human being on the face of the planet.
Take away the stone.
Whatever has become encrusted in our hearts, in our minds, and in our spirits, whatever is blocking the coming forth of life through us and into the world, Take away the stone.
Whatever is blocking the life within you from emerging, Take away the stone.
There is another command from the story that is likewise epic:
Lazarus, come forth.
You can feel Jesus’ assurance that he carried the power to issue that call to someone.
Lazarus, come forth.
Is that not what the people in this world need to hear from us?
We need more of you, not less.
And so, we call to the spirit of a person, the love within them. We call to the very depth of that love and the power of life:
You are needed now. For your own sake, for the sake of all the people around you, for the sake of this world, and this planet, come forth.
Take away the stone. Come forth.
Shortly after the story of Lazarus comes Palm Sunday and the events of Easter. Again, a stone is rolled away from a tomb. This time, it is the tomb where Jesus was placed.
The actual moment when the stone was rolled away is not described. First, it was there, and then it was not.
Joseph of Arimathaea placed the body in the tomb, and they closed the tomb with the stone on Friday. And then, in the darkness of Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb, and the stone had been rolled away. And the body was not there.
Here, portrayed in the Easter story, was the irrepressible Spirit of Life moving in Jesus that brought him out of that tomb. That Spirit rallied within him and woke him out of unconsciousness.
The world keeps spinning ’round and moving around the sun in its unceasing motion, and life keeps moving on Planet Earth. There are forms of life that do not keep up with that movement and are left behind—biological forms, cultural forms, and human life forms get left behind. And yet the spirit of a person—the Spirit of Life—is right with that forward movement. When we awaken to what is happening, we do all that we know how to do to keep our bodies moving along with our spirit, do we not? Our spirit is full of life, and coming forth, and we are bringing our bodies along.
I hope you are taking your body out for a walk regularly. I took mine out for a walk this morning, along with my dog. That is part of helping our bodies to keep pace with the life that we are. And yet, at some point, with things as they are, the human body does not keep up, so we leave it behind.
In Jesus’ case, the story was different. The story is that he kept moving: he came out of the tomb and appeared in the garden. He rolled away the stone for himself and all of humanity, and he kept moving. And he took his body with him. That is how the story goes. I will let you make of that what you will, but it is quite a story that contains the possibility that we could take our bodies with us when we leave this sphere.
Shall we give it a go? Shall we take our bodies as far as we can reasonably take them and see how far that is? What is the harm in giving it a go, right? And doing all that we know how to do to activate our bodies with life and breath continually?
I like to do what we call the loop here on Sunrise Ranch. It is a path that goes up Green Ridge. The first part of it goes up a steep hill to the Chalet. That has me breathing the breath of life into my lungs! I am bringing my body with me on this journey around the sun and the stars.
Some years back, Matthew Fox wrote an inspiring book, The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. So much about it was inspiring to me at the time, and still is. One of the most inspiring sections of this book he calls Twenty-one Running, Working, Experiential Definitions of Mysticism.
A mystic is passionately engaged in a firsthand experience of the spiritual, not leaving it to the teaching of others, the dogma of a tradition, or the rituals of religious practice. All those things can have some value. But there is no substitute for our own mysticism.
One of my favorite of Matthew’s definitions of mysticism is number 5, “Radical Amazement.” He quotes American Rabbi Abraham Heschel:
Awe is the beginning of wisdom.
Awe precedes faith.
Matthew goes on to say this:
Awe is our passion involved in yielding to our radical amazement that surrounds our lives.
How beautiful! In the midst of this human world—with all the people set upon by anxiety and resentment and all those who chase after death—be in radical amazement. This is radical openness to life itself, so that we hear the call of the Spirit of Life, as Lazarus heard Jesus: Come forth.
So we hear that voice within calling us: Take away the stone. Come forth!
What is that stone? It is a stone of shame, resentment, and judgment of oneself and others.
Here is definition 20:
The mystic in us, by ever exploring the depths of one’s experiences…is unleashing and creating what Paul calls the “inner person,” the true self. Co-creation happens here, for the birth of the mystic is a birth with God of what is divine and truly oneself. It is the outward birth of the image of God from within.
…the true or inner self is nothing less than the Cosmic Christ inside each of us.
This is the birth of the cosmic emanation within every human being, within us as a race, within the planet, within the solar system—the Cosmic Christ coming forth unceasingly, perpetually, eternally. No matter what happens in the outer form of a human being or in a human life, or in our life as the human race, the Cosmic Christ is surging forward.
Let us do all we know how to do to bring the human experience along—our own and that of our friends. So we are calling with love to the people around us, Come forth!
Let us be a witness to the miracle of life in each other. And in this moment, let us roll back whatever stoniness is present. Let us allow the Cosmic Christ to come forth. Let us, as the Cosmic Christ, call to one another:
Take away the stone. Come forth. Allow love to live in this world.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whatever is happening for you, take away the stone. Come forth in love. And if you are distracted in any way by fear, anxiety, preoccupation with the things of death, roll back the stone so that life can come forth, so that you, as the Cosmic Christ, can be present in the world.
On this May Day, let us, as humankind, dance around the Maypole, all of us together, in one celebration of life. Even as our planet dances around the sun, may we together dance around the Maypole and heal the spirit of humankind so that the spirit of our race becomes the Spirit of Love, the Cosmic Christ. So may it be.