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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

241: Nov 12th 2020: Above me shine the stars so bright, down here on Earth shine we.


There has been heavy frost on the chapel roof. It’s the first thing I see in the morning and it's my preferred weather forecast— winter is definitely here! This week the olive harvest began here at Starcross and in many other locations around the world. Every place I look I see our friends and volunteers at work in ancient tasks. What is going in our fields is pretty much the same as what you would find in Israeli and Palestinian groves right now. The olive tree has been associated with peace ever since a dove flew back to Noah's Ark with an olive branch in her beak (Genesis 8:11).

Peace is what we all long for, and we had that for a few days. The news of the work on a vaccine for COVID-19 was very encouraging. It even seemed as if there was a possibility for a decent end to the political disharmony, but sadly that does not seem to be happening. Some people are invested in prolonging the discord for their own advantage rather than taking action for the common good of the country.

A lot of older folk, myself included most of the time, are simply exhausted and disgusted. I agree that “The Seductive Lure Of Totalitarianism,” as Anne Applebaum terms it, must be resisted, but practically what can a tired old guy like myself do? Something else happened this week that gave me a clue, and perhaps it would be of help to some of the people reading this Reflection.

Two days ago was the Feast Day of the Fourth Century conscientious objector, St. Martin of Tours. He is best known for the account of his using his military sword to cut his cloak in two, to give half to a beggar clad only in rags in the depth of winter. His shrine in Tours became a famous stopping-point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

His life has inspired many artists over the years, but Martin was mostly associated in the European mind with peace. It was for this reason that after the fighting stopped in World War I the actual armistice was signed on “Martin’s Day,” November 11, 1918. We also commemorate our veterans on November 11.

There are also other observances that occur at this time. In many parts of Europe the end of the harvest is celebrated in much the same way we enjoy Thanksgiving day. Additionally, time is set aside for children to go around the woods and villages with little lanterns known as “Martinslaternem” in Germany. As they troop around they sing a little song that begins, “I go with my lantern…” That is what is seen and heard on Martin’s Night — groups of little lights moving through the dark and the innocent voices of children.

I Go Outside with My Lantern

I go outside with my lantern,

my lantern goes with me

Above me shine the stars so bright,

down here on Earth shine we.

So shines my light in the still dark night,

la bimme, la bimme, la boom.

‘Neath heaven’s dome till we go home,

la bimmel, la bammel, la boom.

I go outside with my lantern,

my lantern goes with me

Above the stars are shinin bright,

down here on Earth shine we.

So shine your light through the still dark night,

la bimmel, la bammel, la boom

‘Neath heaven’s dome till we come home,

la bimme, la bimme, la boom

Regardless of our age or infirmity, I think we can carry our lights. By the way we live our lives we can keep the flames of decency alive. As Michelle Obama once said, “When they go low — we go high.”

At Starcross a ring of blue lights surrounds the chapel roof from the eve of “Martin’s Day” through the holiday season. They are a reminder to us about carrying our little lanterns of decency. This has to do with relations to the other people in our neighborhood, strangers we meet, coworkers, and especially people who do not agree with us on some issue. We must be guided by the light of decency, or as our forefathers and mothers would have put it, “doing the right thing.”

So let us pick up our lanterns and shine some light into the dark corners of our age.

Excerpted from Brother Toby of Starcross


High and Blue the Sky

High and blue the sky,

trees are very tall,

wild geese flying seem so small.

See, on silent wings in the flocks they go,

never parting from the single row.

We go through the land,

like the wild geese band;

brothers in the flight we are.

Clear and dark the night,

stars are very bright,

lanterns shining seem so small.

See, in single file we walk along,

singing joyfully our lantern song.

We go through the land,

like the wild geese band;

brothers of one light we are.


I Go With My Little Lantern

ASU Male Chorus - "O Mister Moon" arr. V. Hicks. (In honor of Bill Hagemann)

I’ve Got Peace Like A River · Lynda Randle

with love from david

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