21 December 2012 a post by Bruce Stanley

The Sun Shine On You and the Light Shine From You

A story from the edge of the Roman and Celtic world shortly after the time of Christ's Nativity – and a little ritual to bring Divine blessing for the new year, new born following the solstice.

The following story and anointing ritual formed the centre of Mid Wales Forest Church’s Winter Solstice gathering in 2012. The story was told, in the footprint of the fort that features in the story, in the moments after the sun had set – and then the rain came down, so we retreated undercover for a feast and a fire and ended the eventing with the anointing ritual.

You could use the following story and ritual with a group of friends or church, or with your family. Or simply read the story yourself and pray the final prayer.

treasure chest


Those who have ears to hear, hear this story.
Those that have eyes to see, see this scene.

There was once a Roman outpost. And the last Roman centurion lived within its chilly walls. On the sheltered south side there was a garden, where he grew vegetables and right in the middle of the garden there was a cracked and crumbling statue to the Roman sun god, Appolo.

In former times it had been a supply post right on the edge, between the world of the Romans and the Celtic Druids, over to the west – those had been dangerous times and the last garrison to be posted there had left in a hurry, leaving one centurion behind to guard the valuables. That had been 20 years ago and no-one had ever come back.

Since then the locals had gotten kind of used to him – they even traded with him – as did the traders from the holy land dealing in valuables such as gold, oil, incense and spices.

Every night the old centurion would sit and watch as wildlife broke in to nibble the vegetables around the bottom of the statue. He’d actually bless they saying, ‘The sun shine on you, and the light shine from you’.

The locals would laugh and make fun of him.
‘He gives away half of what he’s got in the garden and half of what he’s got locked away in the fort.’

You see, every now and again some local lad would turn up wanting to toughen up his image and ask about an old rusty sword, the old centurion would say ‘I deal in gold, oil and incense’ and the lad’s face would drop because he only had a side of mutton and the old centurion would let him have it for half that saying it’ll be more use at your side than it ever was in this fort. As the lad was off to show his sword off, the centurion would say, ‘The sun shine on you and the light shine from you’.

Or some local girl would come to him looking for some scented oil for her hair on her wedding day, and he’d say ‘I deal in Gold, oil and incence’ and her face would drop because she knew her father would never let her spend money on something he considered foolishness. And he’d let her have the oil for nothing. As she left, he’d say, ‘The sun shine on you and the light shine from you’.

His neighbours continued to laugh and make fun of him. ‘A fool and his possessions are soon parted, and he is one fool, just you mark my words, sooner or later he will have given away everything that he owns and then he will be begging for a handout.’

It was the beginning of the midwinter festival, when all the tribes gathered, when it finally happened, the same year that the new stories, about another Son/God, began to come across with the traders.

That winter the day did come when he had given away everything that he owned – and that night he went to bed hungry – and a hungry man is going to dream.

So, in the middle of the night, he thought he saw an angel and the angel said, ‘I want you to follow the road over the mountains that leads to the great gathering and stand by the great stones and you’ll see what you’re to see and hear what you’re to hear!’ But in the morning when he woke up an empty stomach seemed like a poor travelling companion and he didn’t make the journey to the gathering.

The next night the angel appeared again and said follow the road that leads to the gathering and you’ll see what you’re to see and hear what you’re to hear. But the next morning his knees felt too weak and he didn’t think he could make the trip.

But the next night, when the angel appeared again he woke saying ‘the third time pays for all’ and he made the journey to the great gathering.

All day long, in the bitter cold wind, with his clothes warn out and his shoes with holes in he stood against the great stones. All day long, in the bitter cold wind, with his clothes warn out and his shoes with holes in he stood and watched everyone going past. And all day long, in the bitter cold wind with his clothes warn out and his shoes with holes in no-one spoke to him at all.

At the end of the day, as the sun was setting, he wrapped his cloak around himself and said, ‘I might as well lie down across this circle, just out of the way, and die. I’m just to weak from hunger to get home again.’

As he was going across the circle, a great round cook came out of one of the feasting halls and said, ‘Old man, Ive been watching you, and all day long you’ve been watching everyone that’s gone past as if someone was supposed to give you a message of some kind – and I know that no-one has spoken to you at all’.

He saw how weak the old man was from hunger and he said, I can satisfy your hunger if you can satisfy my curiosity.

The old centurion ate a better meal than he had had in many days and when he’d finished the cook sat down beside him and said, ‘so, friend, tell me your story’.

‘I dreamed a dream.’
‘You what?’
‘I dreamed a dream.’
‘You mean to tell me that all day long, in the bitter cold wind, with your clothes warn out and your shoes with holes in, you’ve been standing there because you dreamed some stupid dream?’
‘Well yes.’
‘What a fool you are. I dream dreams, we all dream dreams, but I don’t go chasing off over the countryside because I dreamed some stupid dream – I stay here and attend to business. Only last night I dreamt that If I was to follow the road over the mountain I’d come to some old fort, and at the back of the fort I’d find an old statue and If I was to dig under that statue I would find more riches that I would know what to do with. Now, where would I be if I payed attention to the things that I dream.

The old man thanked the cook for the meal saying, ‘The sun shine on you and light shine from you’. And, strengthened by the meal, he made the journey home.

When he got back he made his way to his garden and he dug under the statue. He pulled out a chest covered with ancient strange markings and in the chest he found gold, coins, gold armbands, gold headdresses, more gold than he could spend in all his days, and the good that he did in the spending of it, there isn’t time to tell.

Ritual Instructions

The ritual continues with the themes and the chest from the story. You will need to source a few items in advance. Which should leave you change from £10 if you look around.

  • A sheet of edible gold leaf. (You may need to use a little olive oil to scrape this into a jar.)
  • About a heaped teaspoon of frankincense.
  • About a heaped teaspoon of myrrh.
  • A small amount of olive oil.
  • A small bowl to mix them in.
  • A pestle and mortar.
  • Some chocolate money.
  • A chest or appropriate looking box to put them in.
  • A rag to wrap the chest in.

If you want to burn the inscense as you’re talking about it, you will also need

  • A metal plate or bowel filled with sand.
  • Two charcoal incense burning bricks sat on the sand.

The ritual began with bringing out the chest covered in rags, as if it had been discovered like the one in the story. As it is unwrapped, you can tell the last lines of the story again. Show the chocolate money from the top of the chest and give it out to those gathered. Underneath can be four jars (gold in oil, frankincense, myrrh and olive oil), the pestle and mortar and the bowel.

As the ingredients are mixed, you can give a little information about each, finishing with a simple headline about how they relate to, or symbolise the need to receive light from God.

My suggestion would be, if possible, not to read the information but to be quite conversational, remembering what you can. Perhaps having notes to one side if necessary.

You might want to say something about the practice of anointing, how it is making physical a spiritual reality – and say that after the oil is mixed, we are invited to receive this Divine blessing.

Anointing Ritual

Used in Byzantine art, the brilliance of gold in mosaics and icons made it possible to feel the radiant light of God and the splendor of the celestial kingdom where there is never any night. Gold symbolized the divine nature of God. This color glimmers with different nuances.

As it goes into the bowl ...
Gold – It represents our value and our potential to radiate Divine light.

Burnt as incense, this comes from a tree that grows in desert and woodland, growing on rocky, limestone slopes in the Arabian peninsula. The name derives from old French for ‘pure incense’ or, more literally, ‘free lighting’. Used for at least 4000 years; to anoint mummified Egyptian kings, and to treat wounds and sores.

At this point, you may put some frankincense on the burning charcoal and crush a little in the mortar before adding it to the oil.

Frankincense – Known as ‘The Odour of Sanctity’ if represents the sacred element in our lives.

Another aromatic resin of a small, thorny tree native to Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is rich in compounds that have a direct effect on the emotional centres of the brain and it is used to cleanse wounds and prevent infection. Myrrh, sometimes mixed with Frankincense was burned to consecrate the space during temple services.

Myrrh – Known to cleanse, consecrate and heal and to connect with our emotions, myrrh represents our need for Divinely sustained well-being.

Olive Oil
Olive oil has been collected and used by humans from Neolithic times, growing mostly around the Mediterranean basin. It is used in cooking, cosmetics, medicines, as a fuel and as a lamp oil.

Oil - The humblest of the ingredients, yet the one that for thousands of years provided lamp fuel, olive oil represents light.

As people are anointed (with a cross or the shape of a simple flame?), say:

May the Son shine on you and the Light shine from you.

Final Blessing.

To give light we need to receive light.
But it is better to give than to receive.
To give light we need to remember,
That we aren’t alone.
We can sustain each other.
And we can ask for Divine help.

May you know the potential which has been placed within you;
May you be a positive expression of the Divine image within you;
May you allow the Divine Light to shine into your soul;
And may you be one who shines out that same light into the world,
dispelling darkness and negativity, and bringing light and life.

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