Beginning my studies the first step pleas’d me so much,
The mere fact consciousness…

Walt Whitman, from “Beginning My Studies”

In this season when we contemplate meaningful gift giving to those we love, I am compelled to turn to a gift given to me by a beloved parishioner from many years back. It is a beautiful complete and unabridged early edition of Whitman’s, “Leaves of Grass.” The line above, strikes me as fitting for this season and in the spirit of our work. I invite you to receive it as a gift inspired from a gift.

The thought of this line resonates through these halls and far beyond. Iliff’s gift to the world is consciousness. Mindful of the exuberance Whitman held for being fully alive, our community, since its beginning, has remained committed to the awakening of minds and spirits into a deep, honest engagement with the world’s struggles. Consciousness brings awareness to light.

Notice how in these darkest days of the calendar year closest to the winter solstice, we declare this as the season of light. Pervading darkness stirs something powerful within us.

In this season, faith communities tell the stories of their traditions of the gift of light.

…Of a lamp with one day’s portion of oil that miraculously remained lit during the eight days required for the rededication and cleansing of the temple after it was delivered back into the people’s care…

…Of a star that appeared in the night sky radiating out the story of liberation through a special birth to the oppressed people of a stark and troubled middle eastern town…

Light is the gift of disruption to darkness. Consciousness is Iliff’s gift of disruptive light in the presence of injustice. In our own, mere fact consciousness of becoming fully alive, we find ourselves to be stewards of the gift of light.

I wish you a bright, joyous, and hope-filled season.

Tom Wolfe