Video: 2021 Seasons of Light

December 13, 2021
Lit candles and chalice during an HDS community service
As the nights grow longer and the days shorter, this beloved annual multireligious service honors the interplay of holy darkness and light in the world’s religious traditions, including choral and instrumental music, readings by HDS students, the ritual kindling of many flames, and communal prayers and songs.

Full transcript:



KERRY MALONEY: Good evening, and welcome to this year's Seasons of Light celebration at Harvard Divinity School. My name is Kerry Maloney, and I'm the Chaplain and Director of Religious and Spiritual Life here at HDS. Seasons of Light is our campus' annual tradition, a ritual to honor the unity of holy darkness and sacred light in the world's many religious traditions that are represented here on our campus each year.

While we usually enjoy the deep intimacy of one another's presence for this event, jammed into Williams Chapel here, our largest sacred space on campus, to share music, prayers, chants, and texts, this year, of course, due to the pandemic, and our decision to move HDS online entirely for the rest of the semester, we're scattered across the United States and around the globe.

Nevertheless, we believe the power of our spiritual traditions enables us to transcend time and space, to be truly together for this holy occasion, when our unity and interdependence may never have mattered more. As we begin tonight, I invite you, if you haven't yet had the chance to do so, and if you're able, to dim the lights in the room from which you are joining us. Perhaps lighting a candle or two to help you see. Also, please have near you one unlit candle and the means by which to light it later in our ritual, so you can join us.

Also, as we begin, please switch your view to gallery, so that you can gaze around this digital space to see who's here, and the many places from which we're coming together. So we may have a sense of the geographic expanse of our community, we invite you to change your name in your Zoom box to your location. And if you know the indigenous name of that location, please consider using that place name. We also warmly welcome all of you who are joining us not by Zoom, but via livestream from around the world.

I'm joining you tonight from the Preston N. Williams chapel, newly named, newly dedicated, in Swartz Hall at the Harvard Divinity School, where we're on the homelands of the Mashpee Wampanoag, the Aquino Wampanoag, Mi'kmaq, and Massachusetts tribal nations. We acknowledge the horrific history of genocide, stolen land, and forced removal of these peoples, and we honor the diverse Indigenous communities who continue to have a connection with this land.

We stand in solidarity with their efforts to build a better future, a solidarity that requires action on our part, including donating time and money to indigenous led organizations, amplifying the voices of indigenous leaders, and ultimately returning the land. Friends, we've gathered tonight in the midst of yet another harrowing year, political chaos, the continued rise of hate groups, ongoing racist violence, deeply troubling recent court decisions, a global pandemic that has stolen the lives of more than five million people-- more than five million people-- and shattered the security, hopes, and well-being of countless more.

It is important that we are together tonight, to pray and to meditate, to make beautiful music, and to hear sacred texts, to rest in the deep holy darkness, to kindle flames of hope and resistance, and to act together in solidarity with the marginalized. As we begin now, if you are on Zoom, look around this digital room at your companions, your spiritual siblings, far and near, and know that you are not alone. You are not alone.

Take a deep breath. And now take another. And bless your capacity to breathe in a world where that ability simply cannot be taken for granted. Not even one breath. Especially for those who are Brown, Black, and Asian. I invite all of us to center ourselves now in stillness for our brief time together, center ourselves in stillness. Let's feast on the darkness. Let's rejoice in the light.


MAN: (SINGING) Light of hope for a brighter day. Returning now having turned away. Aspiring heart, remember these fields of greys. Settled mind turns today. What a restless heart will hide away. Light travels far with nothing in the way. So being of boundless light, I pray. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih.

Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih, Heaven and sky. A heart is awaiting the clear light. Crimson light at the heart of those eyes. And love, it changes when everything shines.

Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih.

Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih. Om Ami Deva Hrih.

KERRY MALONEY: Please join us on the lines in bold on your screen, keeping your microphone muted. This is our communal invocation. "Light will someday split you open, even if your life is now a cage.

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: For divine seed, the crown of destiny is hidden and sewn on an ancient fertile plain you hold the title to.

KERRY MALONEY: Love will surely burst you wide open into an unfettered blooming new galaxy.

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: Even if your mind is now a spoiled mule.

KERRY MALONEY: A life giving radiance will come, the Friend's gratuity will come.

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: Oh, look again within yourself, for I know you were once the elegant host to all the marvels in creation.

KERRY MALONEY: From a sacred crevice in your body, a bow rises each night and shoots your soul into God.

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: Behold, the Beautiful Drunk Singing One from the lunar vantage point of love.

KERRY MALONEY: That One is conducting the affairs of the whole universe,

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: -- while throwing wild parties in the tree house, on a limb in your heart.



NATHALIE FOLKERTS: When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beach, the oaks, and the pines. They give off such hints of gladness. I would almost say that they saved me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness and discernment, and never hurry through the world, but walk slowly and bow often. Around me, the trees stir in their leaves and call out, stay a while. The light flows from their branches, and they call again. It's simple, they say. And you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.

THOMAS MITCHELL: This is a reading from Matthew, chapter 5, verses 14 through 16. "You are the light of the world. A city built upon a hill cannot be hid. No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand. And it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works, and give glory to your God in Heaven."

CODY HOOKS: Thou, orb aloft, full dazzling, hear me illustrious, deliver me. For always I have loved thee. Thou, that with fruit-defying heat and light, or myriad farms, or lands and waters, or all the globe that turns its face to thee, shining in space. Thou that impartially enfold us all, not only continents, seas. Thou, that to grapes, and weeds, and little wildflowers, giveth so liberally.

Shed. Shed thyself on mine and me, with but a fleeting ray out of thy million millions. Strike through these chants. Normally launch they subtle dazzle and thy strength for these. Prepare the later afternoon of me, myself. Prepare my lengthening shadows. Prepare my starry nights.


DUET: Bright morning stars are rising. Bright morning stars are rising.

EBONY JOY JOHNSON: I center the African tradition in culture of proverbs. African Proverbs are words of wisdom used to exemplify and evoke inspiration. I share with you a South African Zulu proverb, "A tree is known by its fruits." May you be known for your light, may you be known for peace, may you be known for your acts of kindness, and may you be known for the love of thyself and the love you willingly share with others. I do not have a physical symbol of the power of love. But in this moment I hold space in the light of power, of love, to enter into your mind, your body, and your spirit, and your work.



MUHAMMAD HASSAN: "And now my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge which light is the Light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully. For with that same judgment which ye judge, ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you brethren, that you should search diligently in the Light of Christ, that ye may know good from evil. And if ye will lay hold upon every good thing and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ."





CLAIRE SUNBERG: The salt from my eyes is not the waves we once knew. The sea kisses you while I cannot, and I cannot, and I cannot, and I cannot. All I want is to be a flower in your hair, the sugar on your lips, the twinkle in your laugh, for our song to go on forever, for our love to be felt and not passed through the burrs, slipped between songs across miles, untouched but ever so lovely.

Can I be there? Can you sing your song to me? If I could be there, I would forget nothing. I know the moon remembers us, flirting glances by the sand, talks and walks before we were love, before we knew what was to come. She laughed then at our unknowing. For two fitted hearts to sit apart and wonder what could be, she read the words we would not speak, and cradled us together to make it right, and hold us both until we help each other.

Though we weep on separate coasts, and watch the stars alone, the moon recalls our promises, and in her, we find our own.





JESSICA YOUNG CHANG: When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked, and helpless, and alone, in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength, and the hollowness of our strongest virtue, in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us light, then we find out whether or not, we live by faith.

It is in this darkness, when there is nothing left in us that can please or comfort our own minds, when we seem to be useless and worthy of all contempt, when we seem to have failed, when we seem to be destroyed and devoured, it is then that the deep and secret selfishness that is too close for us to identify is stripped away from our souls. It is in this darkness that we find true liberty.

It is in this abandonment that we are made strong. This is the night which empties us and makes us pure. Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure. You were created for spiritual joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and spiritual joy, you have not yet begun to live.


I'll read some prayers of unity love and compassion from the text called Satsang Diksha. This text is authored by my guru, Mahant Swami Maharaj, and this text contains ethical and theological principles of the tradition of Swaminarayan Hinduism.


May all the grief, three types of miseries, calamities, distresses, ignorance, doubts, and fears of all be destroyed.


Through Bhagwan's grace, may all attain good health, happiness, utmost peace, and ultimate moksha.


May no one harm or hate each other. May everyone always respect each other.


May the world be filled with people who are peaceful, righteous, and engrossed in spiritual endeavors, and who tread the path of spirituality.


May mutual unity, suradbhav, power, friendship, compassion, tolerance, and love flourish among all.


LÓRE STEVENS: I lift my eyes up to the hill. From where will my help come? My help comes from love, abundance. My help comes from the hill. My help, my help, it comes from ancient mothers whose hearts beat in mine. It comes from the trees that sway in the breeze that sways them. My help comes from all that was, and is, will ever be. I lift my eyes, hushed by the soothing touch of waves caressing wounded shores, wounded souls.

I lift my eyes to the horizon bathed by the hum of mothers, and mothers' mothers, cradling, gently rocking. I lift my voice, call of the sea, trees, Sister Moon, Mother Earth, my soul weeping, a symphony of life overflowing. I give myself. I too hum through every pore with every breath. I give myself, an extension of all that is, was, and ever will be.


KERRY MALONEY: As we've symbolically passed the flame around the globe, please light your candle and hold it up to your camera. And then select gallery view, so we can see all who are gathered here in the light.


Every face is in you, every voice, every sorrow in you, every pity, every love, every memory, woven into fire. Every breath is in you, every cry, every longing in you, every singing, every hope, every healing, woven into fire. Every heart is in you, every tongue, every trembling in you, every blessing, every soul, every shining, woven into fire.

MELISSA W. BARTHOLOMEW: Friends, maybe now go back into the world with our lights renewed after this nourishing time bathed in the beauty of darkness. Let your light shine even when you are weary, even when you are hopeless, let your light, an extension of great love, be your strength and your guide.


ARIC B. FLEMMING, JR: (SINGING) I am on the way, On the way. I won't get there today, but I'm-- I'm on the way. Come play with me. Come play come pray. No hesitation. No words I see. Come play, play, play, play with me.


I listen to the call of God. Oh, let me see if Heaven is listening to me, oh. I know I'm made in a dark and holy place.


I rejoice, rejoice. Rejoice! Rejoice! I raise my voice. I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I raise-- I raise-- my voice-- my voice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I rejoice! I raise-- I raise-- my voice-- my voice! I rejoice!


When all is cold, I listen to the call of God. Oh, let me see if Heaven is listening.