Living Arts Weekly: Festivals of Light

November 8, 2020

Mankind has advanced in the footsteps of men and women of unshakable faith. Many of the great ones … have set stars in the heavens to light others through the night.–Olga Rosmanith

The festival of Martinmas comes this next week, on November 11. Martinmas is the feast day of Saint Martin of Tours from France. A kind and humble fellow, Saint Martin led a vigorous life of faith and service to others. His most prominent legend tells of when he served in the Roman Army and cut his winter cloak in half to clothe a half-naked beggar at the city walls of Amiens and was then visited by Jesus in a dream and his cloak was restored. This is but one example of his charity. It is recorded that he would make perilous journeys, miles long, to bring help to those in need for his entire life. Though dedicated to his church, he was more dedicated to people, even eschewing traditions to better serve them. In common celebration, people light lanterns in his remembrance, symbolizing how he brought warmth and light to those who were struggling.

For me, honoring the spirit of Saint Martin is just the beginning of celebrating Martinmas. Our global history is filled with examples of people like Martin, driven by their own belief in the goodness of people, who spend their whole lives in service of others. I recently discovered that November 3 is the feast day for another Saint Martin, Martin de Porres born in Lima, Peru. Ironically, he was a social justice reformer of his time. Martin de Porres was the son of a Spanish adventurer and the freed daughter of slaves from Panama. Persecuted for his mixed-race background, he worked tirelessly to care for the sick and educate people regardless of their class, gender, or racial background. What an incredibly appropriate layer of history Saint Martin de Porres adds to the idea of Martinmas.

We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.–Ben Sweetland

Yet, there are more. There are scores of stories about the lives of people who have quietly served, and those who shouted from the mountaintops, a voice for the masses. There are stories of people who patiently but relentlessly stood for peace, and those who brazenly fought for justice. These are stories of people unafraid to face the darkness, whether it be acutely dangerous or quietly pervasive, and shine brightly for others.

And there are (thankfully!) more festivals of light to come. As the darkness becomes prevalent day by day, and we move into the long nights of the Winter, people around the world will celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Iemanja, Kwanzaa, Chinese New Year, and more. At such an extraordinary moment in time, we need all the stories of light that we can find. We need not just a single lantern carried by one man to light our way, but a giant, blazing torch carried by thousands of people throughout the world in history and today. May this season be a celebration of every man, woman and child who has been a beacon of light for the greater Good. And may it be a rallying moment for many more.

What stories of light are you telling this coming season?

Discipline with Loving Awareness begins Wednesday.  Won’t you join Cynthia in filling your tool box with plenty of discipline tools?