In the northern hemisphere we have shifted into winter — we have not come to the solstice fully but the weather does not inquire about our calendars. Here is a First Nations prayer from Canada to begin the season.
Note from R. Matthew Stevens
As a person of Aboriginal heritage I was privileged to serve for many years as a minister within First Nations communities. Being also regarded as an elder I was anxious to promote a blending of our traditional Native spiritual heritage, with the Christian practices the United Church of Canada follows amongst the dominant society. In this regard I find total harmony between the quintessential spirituality of both traditions, and re-introduced many of our symbols and approaches to the church service. As many within my congregations had suffered through Residential Schools, where missionary-types literally beat into them a residual fear of any Native ways , the re-introduction had to be done very gradually and carefully. At that time there were very little or no resources available that I could turn to, and so, although I am by no means a liturgist, I wrote some of my own
A Gathering Prayer On A First Winter Morning
G’zhem-mnidoo, great and kindly Creator:
We awoke this morning to find that overnight Gaa-biboonikaan (Winter Maker spirit) had made a first visit. A thin blanket of white stretch out before us, and in the light of the brilliant rising sun we saw that the trees had been glazed in a crystal sheen. It was surprising.
We step outside, and recall the sound of new frost crunching under our feet. Now we move carefully, for suddenly we recollect the pain that comes from slipping and falling. As we rediscovered our “winter legs” we regained forgotten confidence, and ventured further in this glacial wonderland. It was sensational.
Our first deep breath fills our lungs with the crisp clarity of fridged air. It’s so sharp it almost burns, and yet in a matter of seconds we are certain that we’re fully conscious and completely alive. Yes, it is as you ordained it, G’zhem-mnidoo (Creator God) – and it is good.
How like our relationship with you, great and kindly Creator, is this early winter morn. When we are warm and relaxed like a summer day, we are too often sluggish in expressing our chii-miigwech for all you gift us with each and every day. We put down our semma (ceremonial tobacco) too casually without reflection, simply performing through ritual rather than sincerity. This is not good!
Then comes a cold wind of unexpected intervention into our lives, and now we are fully conscious and aware of the potential peril it brings. We remember that were it not for your ancient teachings we might slip and fall, and we recollect the pain of past occurrence. It is then that we rediscover our “prayer legs”, and that you ordained challenge that we might grow. We know, this too is good.
As you witness the foolishness and forgetfulness of your sentient creatures, do you, G’zhem-mnidoo, ever ponder when we will accept the teachings of the seasons? Do you wonder about how clearly you must need to draw the circle of life, before we gain what our winged and four-legged brothers and sisters know by instinct? Is this disappointing?
We have come together this morning in the circle of our church, asking only that you, great and kindly Creator, continue to be patient with us. In our worship hear our words and songs as our rededication to transformation. This is a commitment from us all, to follow in a good way the path to which you’ve called us. And, that will be good!
Chii-miigwech, (literally: “great/many thanks”, but also stands in place of “Amen”), G’zhem-mnidoo.