Chalica Readings

Chalica was originally conceived in 2005 as a way to celebrate and put into intentional practice the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist tradition – one a night – for seven nights.  Chalica begins on the first Monday of December, and is marked by the lighting of a chalice each day.  Gifts that reflect the principle for that particular day may be given, or you can choose to focus more on mindfulness and action.

I have prepared daily readings for Chalica this year, which individuals and families can use in their home celebrations.  I encourage you to read this draft and offer any suggestions or comments you may have to improve it.  I plan to record these readings and post them to the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton web site for all to use this year.

Day One (Monday)
Chalice Lighting
Within us all burns the fire of life.
We share this common flame,
     symbol of our precious being.
Each flame burns with a unique glow,
     signifying the inherent worth and dignity
     of every person.

Hymn 131, Love Will Guide Us, has the following lyric:
If you cannot sing like angels,
     if you cannot speak before thousands,
     you can give from deep within you.
You can change the world with your love.

Each of you is one of billions of humans inhabiting this planet. Billions – a scary number. But, a billion represents just a tiny fraction of the grains of sand here on earth, or snowflakes that fall every winter. And yet, each grain of sand, each snowflake is different. In every case, perhaps microscopic variations make every grain, every flake unique.

But, sand does not think. The snow crystal has no capacity to reason. The desert feels no emotion. And the blizzard cannot love.

On the other hand, each and every person thinks and has the capacity to reason. Each and every person feels and has within them the seeds of love. So, while sand has usefulness when melted into glass and the snow melts to provide life sustaining water, one would not miss a single grain, a stray flake.

Each and every person, however, has worth. Regardless of our status or our accomplishments, we impact the lives of others. In addition, each and every person possesses dignity – the right to self-determination, the right to pursue noble deeds, and the right to grant and earn respect inherent in the human soul.

On this first day of Chalica, we affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. Amen.

So, today, exchange gifts that honor people in your life. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Are there people I don’t understand, and what can I do to bridge the divide between us?
  • Are there people with whom I have disagreements, and can I work to find a common path for us to walk together?
  • Is there someone I have disrespected to whom I can make amends?
  • Is there someone who has helped me that deserves my special thanks?
  • Is there someone in need of assistance that I can help and what can I do to help them?

Day Two (Tuesday)

Chalice Lighting
Fire cannot be grasped,
     or held within the hand.
Fire is transparent,
     giving light and warmth to all.
May this chalice represent justice,
     fairness and compassion.
Hymn 140, Hail the Glorious Golden City, begins with the following lyric:
Hail the glorious golden city,
     pictured by the seers of old:
Everlasting light shines o’er it,
     wondrous things of it are told.
Wise and righteous men and women
     dwell within its gleaming wall;
Wrong is banished from it borders,
     justice reigns supreme o’er all.
A glorious golden city where wrong is banished and justice reigns supreme. If such a place existed, wouldn’t you move there in a second? You might be willing to do whatever it took to relocate to that city, because the benefits would be worth any cost, any sacrifice.
Well, the gleaming walls don’t reflect the sun. There is no off ramp from the highway of life to this place. You won’t find a dot on any map, or a link on Google or Wikipedia.
But, the glorious golden city exists. It exists here in your heart, and here in your mind. Every brick is laid by each act of justice you commit. The mortar mixes each time you demand fairness from friends and family, employers, government, and businesses. And, the everlasting light shines brightest when you love others with that purest unconditional compassion that guarantees that we are all equal in the eyes of whatever forces power our universe.
So, put away your boxes and cancel the moving van. For you already own a plot in the glorious golden city. On this second day of Chalica, we affirm and promote justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Amen.
So, today, exchange gifts that honor those in your local community that are less fortunate. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • Are there local charities to which I can offer time or talents?
  • Can I donate food, clothes, whatever I can afford to others in need?
  • Are the people near me to whom a simple kindness would make a world of difference?
  • How can I learn or participate in ways that promote justice and equity in my community?

Day Three (Wednesday)

Chalice Lighting
This chalice is a lighthouse,
     a beacon reaching across the vast spaces.
This flame beckons all travelers,
     come, enter, and be welcome.
Join us on our mutual quest.
Hymn 402, From You I Receive, has only this one simple lyric:
From you I receive,
     to you I give,
     together we share,
     and from this we live.
Our chalice is a lighthouse, a beacon showing people a way to religious being, safe from the rocks and
currents of despair and hopelessness. But, lighthouses often reside in solitary locations, far apart from the bustle of home and business. In our search for individual spiritual growth, we might find so much comfort in a newfound belief, that we isolate ourselves from others. We might feel our beliefs too fragile to subject them to the scrutiny of others.
Perhaps a better metaphor is a steeple, whose bell peels out a welcome to all searchers, wherever they come from and whatever questions they bring with them. For our congregations are about community building and reaching out a warm hand of friendship to the stranger.
Many truths span national boundaries and cultural distinctions. One such truth particularly relevant to our congregations is this. A joy shared is twice a joy, while a burden shared is half a burden. Let us share our joys and our burdens gladly.
On this third day of Chalica, we affirm and promote acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations. Amen.
So, today, exchange gifts that honor our fellow Unitarian Universalists and their spiritual journeys. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • Can I take some time to look through a hymnal or book of reflections in order to better appreciate different points of view in our movement?
  • Are there words of peace or forgiveness I can extend to a fellow Unitarian Universalist?
  • Is there a unique gift or leadership role I can offer to my congregation?
  • Are there events I can attend more often to show my support for our religious community?

Day Four (Thursday)

Chalice Lighting
Our chalice is a lamp,
     lighting dark corners of ignorance;
     illuminating falsehoods.
We hold this sacred lamp,
     applying knowledge with care
     and abiding purpose.

Hymn 145, As Tranquil Streams, has the following lyrics:
Prophetic church, the future waits your liberating ministry;
Go forward in the power of love, proclaim the truth that makes us free.
A freedom that reveres the past, but trusts the dawning future more;
And bids the soul, in search of truth, adventure boldly and explore.

The list of famous Unitarian Universalist thinkers runs long and deep in every field of human inquiry. But, thought without reflection breeds vanity and false pride. And ideas without the wisdom of application allow tyrants to run unchecked and the immoral to prey on the innocent.

Unitarian Universalism stands not just for unfettered research and learning; we stand for careful consideration of consequences. The hands that splice genes can unleash monstrous outcomes and the mind capable of splitting atoms can also lay waste to cities.

Education has the power to level all inequalities in life, but only if pursued with good intent and abiding will. Only the search for knowledge and wisdom will yield the fruits of meaning. And that harvest can soothe the greatest hurt and heal the deepest wound.

On this fourth day of Chalica, we affirm and promote the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Amen.

So, today, exchange gifts that honor another tradition, or to honor education. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Can you take time to read about, or participate in an event that celebrates another religion or tradition?
  • What do you know or love that you can teach others
  • What knowledge or talent have you wanted to learn and what is stopping you from doing so?
  • Can you give the gift of a favorite book to someone?

Day Five (Friday)

Chalice Lighting
This gentle flame is the roaring inferno of transformation,
     for only through freedom of belief
     may we become what we will
May our chalice melt the shackles of superstition and creed,
     lighting our way on the path
     of spiritual growth and freedom.
Hymn 135, How Happy Are They, begins with the following lyric:
How happy are they, born or taught,
     who do not serve another’s will;
Whose armor is their honest thought,
      and simple truth their highest skill.
One of the ironies of language involves the word “religion.” Derived from the same root word “ligio” that gives us the word “ligament,” religion actually translates to “that which binds us together again and again.” And yet, the professed point of many religions is to liberate us from suffering and evil.

So, how do we find liberation by binding ourselves repeatedly? For some, the bond is dogmatic acceptance of a common creed. For others, it is the relinquishing of certain choices and responsibilities to divine Providence.

But, Unitarian Universalists viewed themselves as working hands of Providence in the world. We seek and achieve liberation through democratic community; by finding and celebrating our common commitments with souls engaged on the same spiritual journey. In our congregations, we give voice to our beliefs, and we amplify those voices through free discourse and a pulpit that inspires without dictating.

On this fifth day of Chalica, we affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large. Amen.

So, today, exchange gifts that honor democracy. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What can you do to be of public service, or help those willing to serve in office?
  • Can you write a letter to an elected official on a matter of importance?
  • How can you help a committee in your congregation?
  • Would you be willing to host a dinner or gathering to discuss an important issue, or perhaps lead a class to study a significant ethical issue? 
Day Six (Saturday)

Chalice Lighting
As we light this chalice,
     may its flame consume the forces of violence in the world;
     may its heat warm the chill of misunderstanding and hate; and
     may its light brighten the lives of the sick of heart and mind.
Chalice, burn with the fire of peace and liberty.

Hymn 159, This Is My Song, has the following lyric:
My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
     and sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine;
But other lands have sunlight, too, and clover,
     and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
     a song of peace for their land and for mine.

Nearly every religion preaches peace. And yet, our world still labors under the wraith of war, omnipresent poverty, and persistent harbingers of hate. We will never achieve peace in the world until each and every one of us finds peace within our own hearts; a peace that cannot be attained while the body hungers, limbs are shackled, and free will lies imprisoned.

As Unitarian Universalists, we can appreciate the sentiments of prophets of peace throughout history. We can also aspire to live lives in pursuit of peace for ourselves, our communities, our societies, and our world. As our love is unconditional, so must our struggle for liberty for others be unqualified. Every human being has the inherent right to live free, to love unrestricted, and to seek enlightenment via the path of their choice. We are all only as free as the most fettered among us.
On this sixth day of Chalica, we affirm and promote the goal of world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all. Amen.
So, today, exchange gifts that honor our global community. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • Can I find a way to volunteer with, or donate to an organization that has global influence, such as UNICEF, or Doctors Without Borders?
  • Can I write a letter for Amnesty International?
  • How can I help the social justice committee in my congregation to hold a fundraiser, or run an alternative gift market?
  • Have I looked at the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee web site recently, and updated my membership?

Day Seven (Sunday)
Chalice Lighting
We ignite this elemental flame,
     core of our earth and of our very being.
We call upon the foundation of molten rock.
We call upon the electricity of lightning.
We call upon the light of celestial stars.
Fire within, transform us with your power.
Hymn 298, Wake, Now, My Senses, closes with the following lyric:
Wake, now, my vision of ministry clear;
Brighten my pathway with radiance here;
Mingle my calling will all who will share;
Work toward a planet transformed by our care.
Primitive humans understood and respected the power of the natural world. While humankind takes well-deserved pride in its modern engines and harvesting of resources, we would do equally well to hone our humility, remembering that we are insignificant creatures next to the might of a sun.
The temptation to succumb to the short-term benefits of our modern way of life is not sustainable. We know this well, and yet we continue to avail ourselves of our world’s bounty with little care for its maintenance.
As Unitarian Universalists, we must fight for the rights of our planet with no less diligence that we do for our own freedom and liberty. As congregants, we are stewards of our houses of worship; as citizens, we are stewards of our nation; and as human beings, we are stewards of our home, the earth.
On this seventh day of Chalica, we affirm and promote the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Amen.
So, today, exchange gifts that honor our earth and its creatures. Ask yourself these questions: 
  • How can I do more to recycle bottles, cans, and more? If I can sell my recyclables, what environmental/animal aid society would I support?
  • Could I rescue an animal from a shelter?
  • How can I help plan and conduct an outdoor worship service in my congregation, weather permitting?