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Montreal Quaker Meeting

Newsletter
Christmas Edition

 
 
 
 

By Christina Rossetti



 

Times and Seasons: A Quaker Reflection on Christmas

By Gill Sewell

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

Early Quakers did not observe Christmas nor mark other 'times and seasons'. They believed that no day was more holy than any other, and believed that each day, and all of life, was sacred (Quaker faith & practice 27.39 and 27.42). Today, as with so many things in the Quaker community, there is a full spectrum of practices and responses.


There are those who do the full Christian event to mark the birth of Jesus with candles, carols, presents and Christmas pudding, and others who will observe simply and quietly. There are also those who will choose not to mark this Christmas season in any way, but who nonetheless give daily witness to their faith.


Whilst I experience this sense of the 'sacred always' I do, like many Quakers, find times and seasons helpful markers from which to reflect and rejoice. I delight in the new spring buds, the crisp autumn leaves, the wisps of breath on a cold winter morning. I celebrate Easter as a time of new beginnings and advent as a time of deepening darkness with the promise of new light to follow. 


The ordinary moments of each day


New Year is like the turning of a page and the chance to consciously approach a new chapter in my life, with renewed intentions. I find the sacred manifests itself in laughter in the office, good music on my headphones, shared meals at home, and Sunday evenings with six of us on the sofas watching Blue Planet II. In these ordinary moments of the day I can be reminded of the divine. Watching specks of dust dance in the sunlight – in the small things of the universe – I am reminded of my belonging in the cosmos and my part in being love and light. With Christmas approaching I mark the Sundays of advent – knowing that (in the northern hemisphere) the shortest day approaches. 


Earlier humans have marked this passage of the sun/moon as sacred with such festivals as Yule – later supplanted by the Christian Christmas festival. I engage with this reminder of birth in the darkest days, heralding the arrival of life, and life more abundant, in the months to come. Advent reminds me too that in the darkness there are moments for hibernation and reflection, so that when the daylight comes I have a readiness to turn to face the sun. 


Celebrating in community


We humans want to celebrate in community, perhaps remember those who've died, perhaps to celebrate new and burgeoning relationships – and also our sense of belonging. Recognizing too, that for some there may be little to celebrate – in poverty, isolation or war-torn zones. Globally the world has perhaps held too much darkness this year with several political leaders unable to beam shards of goodness and light.


As nights draw in, it is a reminder to me that I need to hold my spark of light faithfully and boldly, witnessing in the darker corners of my community. Holding and living by the Quaker testimonies of peace, simplicity and care of the environment remains a challenge in my preparations for a Christmas celebration. I make donations (including at the food bank), try to make good ethical choices with my purchases, and identify ways in which to share. 


Quakers mark Christmas in different ways but I will spend Christmas Eve looking up at the stars and hoping fervently that the seven billion people on this planet will indeed show good will to one another. 


Republished from Quakers in Britain, December 23, 2017

 

Sneezing with Suzukis

By David Millar

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

Came the blizzard of 1944. The Suzuki family, down the street, had been deported from BC as dangerous Aliens, although Doctor Suzuki didn't seem very dangerous to me. Their backyard drifts were so deep we could dig into them and make igloos. The entire Suzuki clan and I became snow people. So cold inside, it made us sneeze. Then they went back West; David became a biologist and broadcaster, Tad a musician I met 20 years on at Quebec City’s winter festival, Cookie a mother. But I still remember the sting of snow in my nostrils, sneezing with Suzukis.

 

Silence in the Café

By Jean-Louis Demers

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

For some time, Quebec City’s small Quaker group searched for a new place to worship, one which would be more accessible to regular participants living on the south shore. Our search led us to a room in Café la Mosaïque in Lévis, a café with a social and community vocation. On Sunday, December 5, we held our Meeting there for the first time.  Against the background sounds of customers, the laughter of children, the rhythm of music, the smell of coffee and baking, we came together for silent worship. The sound track did not bother us; in fact, it helped to anchor our worship in the sounds of surrounding life, confirming a spirituality well embodied in the world. It was a very rich experience that we are eager to repeat. This place was also ideal for socializing later over a snack. Ordinary, everyday places can sometimes be more inspiring than church buildings.

 

http://cafelamosaique.org/

 

The Kitty of God

By Wendy Eberle

 
View of a sunset over a river

Photo by Wendy Sturton

 

One childhood Christmas, when I was four and my family lived in Texas, my parents took me to see the brightly lit display in Zilker Park. We paused at the creche, and as I stood taking in the scene, in particular the animals gathered around the little family, I noticed something was missing. I tugged at my mother’s hand: “But where is the kitty of God?” I asked. My parents were perplexed. I insisted. “But there’s a whole book!” I cried, indignant. Once back at home, I pointed out the volume, proud of my perspicacity: St. Augustine’s The City of God, shelved in the living room at exactly my child’s eye level.

 

Merry Eco-Christmas

By Jean-Louis Demers

 
View of a sunset over a river

Tlalpujahua, a "Magical Town" located in Michoacán, Mexico. Home to artisans who produce glass Christmas spheres and other pieces made with straw, feathers, ceramics, quarry and even projects using blacksmithing techniques. | Photo by Sheri Ochoa

 

Around 707 million gifts are distributed each year at Christmas around the world. In Canada alone, $ 4.9 billion annually is spent on Christmas gifts of all kinds (Statistics Canada)* . In Quebec, seven hours a day of Christmas lights between November 25 and January 4 consume 450 megawatts of electricity. This amounts to one-third of the output of the Manic-5 plant, the sixth largest in the Hydro-Quebec network. Our Christmas lights represent a collective bill of $ 9 million (Source: Radio-Canada). About 23 square kilometers of wrapping paper are thrown into the garbage every year after the holidays, equalling more or less the surface area of the city of Belœil (Équiterre).

 

Expenditure statistics for DECEMBER 2017 (latest available) in Canada:

- $ 444.7 million for televisions and audiovisual equipment for home use
 - $ 607.5 million in toys and games
- $ 464.4 million in computers, peripherals and network equipment
 - $ 98.7 million in stationery, office supplies, cards, wrapping paper and delivery of items purchased from major retailers in Canada. And so on, and on…. 

 

 

Finding the Way

By Sabrina Calvo

 

For a long time, all I knew about Christmas was gluttony. A ripped-up orgy of gifts, roughly tossed around in their crumpled piles of wrapping paper. Gobbled-down geese, turkey, chestnuts. The overladen table looked like it would collapse under twelve desserts.  A spinning ball of chaos, the unapologetic luxury of a tribe that had forgotten how to say I love you.  My faith and the impoverishment of our traditions led me to long, instead, for one thing:  a celebration of renewed love, and of another year in which we could be together, even if only in a world heading to extinction. Still, at an age when I should have been regarded as an adult, I was seated at the children's table.


And then: old age, loss, distance all intervened and forced a kind of respite and quiet on our clan. At this stage arose the beginning of hope that the process could be adjusted to make better sense. I hoped that something might take shape, a word, a gesture, that would finally help us escape the maelstrom of our modern distractions. I hoped we could cut through this excess which drowned our children and ruined their parents. 


I watched the composition of family gatherings gradually change, from extended family to nuclear, sometimes bringing together only parents and their children. It was better: Our Christmases became more peaceful.  


But they still revolved around gifts. 


And then, the pandemic. Two years passed without the family Christmas gathering. 


Now we arrive in the present. I had my mom on the phone a few weeks ago. It was difficult: with my brothers, we made her understand that we only wanted to give gifts to the children. But for our parents, we know that a gift means love. So we agreed to offer them a gift, and let them give us one.


And me? This year I will be spending Christmas with them. My brothers and...here it goes. I asked my mother to accompany me to Notre Dame and make me a gift of a medallion of Mary.  I hope that in this outing, in this conversation, we will find our way.


I have hope that we will find the way.

 
 

Save the Oil

By Claire Adamson

 

Hanukkah oil lasted 8 days,
a miracle, some say.
Now, oil saved will amaze,
for the Christmas holiday.
 
The trick for good latkes,
tasty potato pancakes,
is no oil it saves,
for all the oil it takes.
 
Plant a tree to save the earth,
and don’t cut one down,
to fete the virgin birth.
All the birds will frown!

 
 

Carol, Still With Us

By Margaret Slavin

 
View of a sunset over a river
 

I am in the copy shop picking up posters with an image of beloved local activist Carol Winter. The text gives a list Carol sent to the local paper a short time before she died. I become aware that the masked customer in the other aisle is Washboard Hank, a popular musician hereabouts. I hand Hank the list and his rich singing voice rises, to the tune of Twelve Days of Christmas: “One minimum barrier shelter! One wildlife rehabilitation centre! Several tran-SI-tion houses!” I sing along, words tumbling into laughter. “ONE restorative justice, ONE healing lodge, guaranteed national income and world peace!” 🎶

 

Meditation on Christmas and Epiphany

By Sébastien Garant

 
View of a sunset over a river

Angel of the Nativity. | Painting by Sébastien Garant

 

As the holiday season approaches, I would like to share some thoughts with you on the Bible stories that tell us about the birth of Jesus Christ. Two texts tell us about the circumstances of this birth: the Gospels of Luke (Chapters 1 and 2) and of Matthew (Chapters 1 and 2). In their similarities and differences, these accounts embrace and complement each other.


As a common point, they both present Jesus to us as the light that illuminates the world. In his gospel, Luke introduces Jesus this way:  "…the morning sun from heaven will rise upon us, to shine on those who live in darkness…" (Luke 1, 78-79). Further on, he tells us that, in the middle of the night, the shepherds learn of the birth of Jesus through the mouth of an angel and that, at the time of this announcement, “the splendor of the Lord shone round them.” (Luke  2, 8-14). On the other hand, Matthew does not speak to us of the shepherds, but rather of "wise men from the East" (Matthew 2, 1). In his story, a mysterious star guides the Magi: "We observed the rising of his star, and we have come to pay him homage.” (Matthew 2, 2). Further in the story he writes , "At the sight of the star, they were overjoyed ”and entered the house where Jesus was with his mother (Matthew 2, 10-11). In both these accounts, therefore, Jesus is closely associated with light from above, the divine light. In his gospel, John tells us that Jesus is the "real light which enlightens every man”(John 1, 9).


In ancient times, the Western Church emphasized that the first people who turned to Christ were shepherds; that is, people who live on the margins of society, in great simplicity. Thus, in the Western world, the feast of Christmas, celebrating Luke’s story of Christ’s birth on December 25, has taken on great importance. The Eastern Church, on the other hand, emphasized the people from distant lands who made the first pilgrimage to pay homage to Christ. In this tradition, the feast of the Epiphany (commemorating the story of Matthew on January 6) was chosen to celebrate the birth of Jesus. In spite of their differences, however, the two accounts join in telling us that Christ "illuminates every human being", whatever his or her geographical origins and material conditions of life. Both traditions invite us to the opening. 


Another thing the two stories have in common is that they show us how divine light transforms those who experience it, a revelation to all who open to its mysterious presence in the silence of the night. In fact, shepherds, accustomed to living on the fringes of society, do not return to their flocks without announcing the good news of the birth of Christ: "When they saw him, they recounted what they had been told about this child; and all who heard were astonished at what the shepherds said.”(Luke 2,18) As for the wise men that came from the East, "…they returned home another way." (Matthew 2, 12)  One might think that this other path is geographical, but it is certainly more interesting to see it as a symbolic path: that of the heart transformed by divine light. 


After all, didn't Jesus tell us: “I am the Way”? (John 14, 6) 

 

God’s Presence Brings the Best Gifts

By Marilyn Adjami

 
View of a sunset over a river

Photo by Wendy Sturton

 
 
 
 

When my son, Blaise, was six years old our mother cat gave birth to a bundle of lovely kittens. With one left to be "adopted" Blaise announced: "Mom we have to keep this kitten. I am Blaise the Boy....He is Blaise the Cat!"

 

That cat eventually won a photo award. I took his picture as he climbed to the top of a telephone pole behind our third floor apartment to enter via the back door.

 

Shortly afterwards, I met my husband-to-be at the Sunday Quaker Meeting and we were married.  We are still living happily close to my son Blaise.  He and his family (wife Yoko and two boys, Nathan and Ryan) live several blocks away. Nearly fifty years after adopting Blaise the Cat, we now share our home and nighttime “bedstead” with SAM (Societe des Animaux de Montreal), a stray Siamese cat who walked in four years ago.

 

Happiness and Good Luck are God's Presence to us all !

 

The Merriest Christmas Gift

Report by Jean-Louis Demers, based on a personal testimony

 
View of a sunset over a river

Dawn at Solstice | Photo by Wendy Sturton

 

A member of our Meeting who works with refugees became involved with a single parent family.  This group, a mother with several children, has been seeking asylum for four years. The father, a political opponent in a country with sham democratic processes, suffered several abuses at the hands of the system in their country.  Once divorced from him, the mother was no longer linked to the principal applicant's claim. She had to apply for asylum on her own. A rejection of her application was likely, as she had never campaigned against those in power and as such, her life was not directly threatened. The fact that her children were in Canada gave her no additional leverage.


Since the vast majority of such cases are refused, the long wait for a judge to render a decision was extremely trying. A just decision in this case required special insight, because the family fled from a country that appears to be democratic, but in fact is not.


The mother’s lawyer warned her a few weeks ago to prepare for rejection. The little family lived through  an anxiety that is hard to imagine, made worse because the father had given up his paternal role and was virtually absent from the lives of his children. The mother had suffered many deprivations, but the worst poverty is not material. The greatest poverty is the despair that overwhelms you when you have no status or country. 


All this background is given to prepare you for a happy ending.  In the last few days, her asylum application was unexpectedly accepted!


The happiness of the mother was immeasurable; but a close second to hers was the joy of our friend, who over and over again had encouraged the mother to hope... and who had reassured the children, as hopes faltered. 


Let us give thanks to this divine light which gave our friend the strength to help this family, which gave her the chance to hold five small hands one after another, to go play in a park or to eat ice cream. You have to love to move forward.  And in this case, love inspired a giant leap!

 

Upcoming Events Montreal Meeting

 

For up-to-date information on location of Meetings for Worship please consult our website at https://montreal.quaker.ca/calendar

 

December 26

Meeting for Worship for Business.

 

December 27
Third Day of Christmas, a seasonal zoom party for members of Montreal Meeting and friends.  

 

December 26 and January 2
Greene Centre is closed.  Zoom meetings only will take place on those dates.

 

January 4
CYM Representative meeting is scheduled at 1:30 PM EST.  All are welcome to attend as observers.  Contact clerk Janette Fraser for details at jint999@hotmail.com

 

February 6
Unvaccinated children are invited to attend Meeting at Greene Centre.

 

January 9
Worship in French, 11 AM at the Café Mosaique in Lévis.  Contact Jean-Louis Demers for Zoom link and information jldemers123@gmail.com

 

January 11

Zoom Meeting for Worship in French, 6:30 PM. Contact Jean-Louis Demers for information jldemers123@gmail.com

 

January 30
Meeting for Worship for Business.

 

QIF Summer Research Seminar Videos

By Geoff Garver

 

The videos of the presentations at the 2021 QIF Summer Research Seminar are now ready for viewing and sharing on the QIF YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwTrtmp9is3xkA97LrCewtw/playlists

 
 
 

List of Contributors

Co-editors:
Jean-Louis Demers
Sherezada Ochoa
Wendy Sturton

 

Translators:
Jean-Louis Demers
Wendy Sturton

 

Special Thanks to:

Claire Adamson

Marilyn Adjami

Sabrina Calvo

Wendy Eberle

Sébastien Garant

Geoff Garver

David Millar

Gill Sewell

Margaret Slavin

Caspar and Balthazar, the cats

 
 
 
 

To contact the Newsletter Team please email us at newsletter@montreal.quaker.ca

 
 

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