While it seems a bit early to think about Spring here in Wisconsin, Chinese New Year is the Chinese Spring Festival. This year it came a few days before the Celtic celebration of Imbolc or Candlemas, which is also a celebration of the lengthening days and the anticipation of Spring.
In Chinese Astrology 占星術, 2017 is the year of the Fire Rooster. The Rooster is associated with the Sun since it crows at dawn to awaken us. The Fire Rooster is also known as fenghuang 鳳凰 in Chinese. The Fenhuang are mythological birds that reign over all other birds and are often seen paired in paintings with the Chinese dragon. In the West, we call it the Phoenix.
Each year Wendy and I have a Chinese New Year ceremony in our home chapel. This Liturgy combines the rituals taught to me by my qigong sifu with a seventh century Chinese Christian Divine Liturgy. As part of the ritual I toss the I Ching coins seeking guidance for the new year. This year the I Ching reading was Li 緊貼 Clinging Fire. The image this evokes is fire clinging to the wood that it burns. In these ominous and challenging political times, we may be tempted to abandon our inner balance and lash out. But it is in just such times that it is important to cling to what we know to be good and true, like fire clings to the log it burns. By doing so, we gain the aid of the Divine Spirit, who in the writings of the new Christian believers, appears like fire.
In the Chinese Five Phase Theory, Fire is associated with the heart. This fiery Spirit is wonderfully expressed in this poem by Joyce Rupp called Hearts on Fire.
I wanted it.
Desired it greatly.
Yearned for its coming.
But when it did come,
I fought, resisted it, ran, hid away.
I said, Go home!
didn’t know the fire of God
could be more than a gentle glow
or a cozy consolation.
I didn’t know it could come as a blaze.
A wildfire uncontrolled, searing my soul,
chasing my old ways, smoking them out.
Only when I stopped running,
gave up the chase,
did I know the fire’s flaming as consolation and joy.
Only then, could I welcome the One
whose fire I had long sought.
Psychiatrist and WWII Concentration Camp survivor, Viktor Frankl wrote, “What is to provide light, must endure burning.” And in the gospel of Matthew, John the Baptizer says of Jesus, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” If we are to be the light of the world, as Jesus declared, then we must be willing to endure the fire of the Spirit.
As this year of the Phoenix unfolds, let us pray along with John Philip Newell:
“Rekindle in us Your Spirit O God, that we may be fully part of the blazing splendor that burns from the heart. That we may be fully part of the blazing splendor of this moment and every moment.”
“The Doctor and the Soul: From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy”, by Viktor Frankl, Random House, 1986.
"Hearts on Fire" From May I Have this Dance: An Invitation to Faithful Prayer Throughout the Year, by Joyce Rupp, Ave Maria Press, 2000.
“Celtic Benediction: Morning and Night Prayers” by J. Philip Newell, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005.