Responding to The Call of Michaelmas
A sea of red illuminated by the warm golden hue of our new building, rhythmically beating drums, smiling radiant faces, a handcrafted copper dodecahedron awaiting our wishes – these are some of the images that come to me as I reflect on last Friday’s Michaelmas celebration. It was a breathtaking evening in so many ways, not the least of which was that the skies held the rain until the following day. We are deeply grateful to the many, many people who brought us together for such a festive and joy-filled night.
I’d like to share a wonderful and poignant reminder of the significance of this festival in our community. Written by Liz Beaven of Rudolf Steiner College, the article calls us to “summon courage and inner strength of will to meet the forces of darkness.” In doing so, we will again find hope and gratitude for all that is good in our lives.
As we move toward the dark days of winter, and moments of fatigue, frustration, and even fear come with greater frequency, let us hold onto the inspiring image of Michael. I hope we can find strength in one another – asking for guidance and support as we face our individual and collective dragons. That is a tremendous gift that our community offers – none of us is alone.
Thank you for sharing your children with us, and for your continued support of our work!
With gratitude –
The Autumnal Equinox marks a moment of balance between light and dark, a turning point in the seasons. The days are growing steadily shorter; light is fading; tree leaves are turning; the harvest is being gathered in; and there is a decided nip in the early morning air, even in sunny Fair Oaks. Michaelmas, the festival of the Archangel Michael, falls on September 29, shortly after the Equinox. It marks the turning of the year and invites us to journey inwards, to reflect, and to renew our faith, hope, and courage as the world of nature appears to be dying away and as darkness grows day by day.
Michaelmas is an ancient festival, little known and seldom celebrated in our modern world. Despite its current obscurity, Rudolf Steiner stated that its importance as a festival for humanity is second only to Easter. Ever year, we pause at Rudolf Steiner College to celebrate Michaelmas. Waldorf schools throughout the world also gather to observe it in various ways. What is it about this ancient, little-known festival that has importance and relevance for our modern world? How may we people of the twenty-first century hear and respond to the call of Michael?
The central message of Michaelmas is highly relevant to the challenges of our age. It calls on us to summon courage and inner strength of will to meet the forces of darkness, often portrayed in the form of a destructive dragon (quite different than the beneficent dragons of Eastern mythology). Fear and evil are given a face and shape, visible and readily confronted. In earlier times, stories and enactments encouraged humanity to rally, with the aid of spiritual help, to slay the fearsome dragon, thereby subduing evil. Our modern world is not so simple; the dragons of negative and destructive impulses often travel in disguised and subtle forms.
We live in fear-filled times; there is much to trouble us, to tug at our attention, to cause us to lose sleep at night. Moral ambiguity abounds; it is no longer so easy to distinguish forces of good from forces of evil. Through our sophisticated development of technology, the boundaries of reality and fantasy have become blurred. We are weary from wars that have no clear outcome and no apparent point of victory. We may often feel that we are shadow boxing a host of phantoms and terrors. Confronted with a troubled world, a non-stop onslaught of news reports of a range of destruction, the dragon of old, with shape and form, seems manageable – even preferable – despite its sulfurous breath.
More than ever before, we need our inner practices, the anchor and support of the spiritual world, and the comfort of community. As the world of nature dies away and darkness threatens to engulf us, Michael gives us strength to face our fears, to confront internal and external dragons, to give them name, and to channel their immense power into action for the good. He asks us to awaken out of the dreaminess of summer and to bring full consciousness to ourselves and to the world around us. With his help, we recall that, although our senses tell us that the world around us is dying away, a cycle of new life is beginning, unseen. As the dark of winter gathers, and as affairs of the world seem grave, we are reminded of the power of courage, of hope, and of gratitude for the gift of life.