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A Festival of Light
Written by Swami Kriyananda, and performed at every Ananda Sunday Service

Swami Kriyananda

Written in mystical poetry and celebrated with music, the ceremony depicts the soul’s journey from the time of its creation, through the stages of development, to its final union with God.

Let us lift up our hearts in a festival of light.

The essence of this ceremony has been passed down from ancient times.

O waves that we are on the bosom of the Infinite Sea, joyfully together let us celebrate our own greater reality.

For now by God’s grace our redemption is at hand. The promise has been given. The divine light, returning anew to earth, has given us power, as the Holy Bible proclaims, “to become the sons of God.” Into our hands have been delivered the sacred keys of awakening.

Abundant now is our hope!

The Lord, through the Bhagavad Gita, promised: “Even the worst of sinners, by steadfast meditation on Me, speedily comes to Me.”

Again in that holy scripture He declared, “Even a little practice of this inward religion will free one from dire fears and colossal sufferings.”

And whereas suffering and sorrow, in the past, were the coin of man’s redemption, for us now the payment has been exchanged for calm acceptance and joy. Thus may we understand that pain is the fruit of self-love, whereas joy is the fruit of love for God.

From sun and moon and all the stars,

from glistening seas, high mountains, desert solitudes, and vast, fruitful plains,

and from the hearts of mankind, and of creatures everywhere,

goes up in wordless yearning a prayer for redemption:

O Mighty Source of all that is:
From sorrow, lead us to everlasting joy;
From darkness, lead us to infinite light;
From death, lead us to immortality!
AUM, peace, Amen.

A fledgling bird once flew out into the world.

“Gain strength and wisdom,” its parents told it, “and what you acquire, share with others, even as we have shared with you. For you are a part of all that is.”

Thus, Lord, we left You countless eons ago. Ours was a holy mission. You charged us to learn great lessons from life: to be fruitful in the gifts You had given us; to expand and multiply them.

Alas, we abandoned our mission. Instead, we hoarded selfishly. Nor did wisdom come to us when, repeatedly, we lost everything we had.

For the young bird, in flight for the first time, gloried in its new-found strength. It began to think, “How foolish I would be to share my strength with anyone! What else is wisdom, if not to keep what is mine for myself?”

And so we, like that bird, entered upon the second stage of the soul’s long journey away from its home in God: the stage which is called, The Revolt.

That bird’s brief day was like eons of our time. When afternoon came, it entered a storm cloud, and soon found itself struggling for its life. Wind and rain lashed at its wings. The more it fought back, the weaker it became.

“Give yourself into my hands!” cried the wind. “To your strength I can then add my own.”

At last, the little bird heeded this counsel. Then, suddenly, it found itself soaring joyously, high above the clouds.

Hours passed, and night fell. The little bird grew afraid. “How,” it cried, “can I fly in this darkness?”

And the night whispered, “Fear not. For lo! peace awaits you in the unknown. Surrender to me, and your strength will be renewed.”

And after a time the tiny rebel surrendered, and found the night’s counsel true.

And rain, and sky, and grassy fields all sang: “Behold, your very strength to fly has never been your own. Look to the source of all power, if you would conquer fear and weakness.”

And the bird asked, “Where can I find that source?”

And they answered, “Seek it in the farthest depths of Being, in your own Self.”

Thus, gradually, the bird entered that third stage of the journey which is called, The Quest.
We, now, like that little bird, have come to realize that buffeting winds are life’s way of giving us strength and courage; that even fear, like shadows on a statue, gives light and substance to hope.

From the depths of unknowing, Lord, we cry out to Thee:
Is there no lasting purpose to our lives?
Behold, all that we thought was light was but darkness!
Who are we, in reality?
For what end were we made?

Ever and again through Your awakened sons the answer comes:

The forming of stars and moons and planets,
Of galaxies revolving on the tides of space,
Of drifting continents, upheaving mountains,
Snowy wastes and dark, silent ocean deeps
Had but this for its design:

The birth of life,
and, with life’s birth, the dawn of self-awareness:
passage through dim corridors of waking consciousness
to emerge at last into infinite light-
into perfect joy!

O Children of Light, forsake the darkness!
Know that, forever, you and He are one!

Raise your hands, and, chanting AUM, ask that the power of God replenish you in body, mind, and soul.

Song:

AUM, AUM, AUM, AUM
Out of the silence came the song of creation;
Out of the darkness came the light.
Out of the darkness, out of the silence
Thundered the Cosmic Sound, Amen!
Out of the darkness, out of the silence
Thundered the Cosmic Sound, AUM!

AUM, AUM, AUM, AUM
Gone is our bondage with the dawn of new freedom;
Gone is delusion in the light!
“Gone is delusion, gone is your bondage!”
Thunders the Cosmic Sound, Amen!
“Gone is delusion, gone is your bondage!”
Thunders the Cosmic Sound, AUM!

Such, O Lord, was Your divine promise.
(The minister lights a candle, and holds it before him.)
Gaze upon this light as a symbol of God’s love.

A prayer of love went up from earth, and You responded.
A ray of Your light flashed out from the heart of Infinity,
Burst downward through night skies of consciousness,
And was born on earth for the redemption of mankind
In human form.

(The minister lifts the candle aloft with both hands to symbolize this choice.)
Please pray with me:

O Lord,
With all my heart,
With all my mind,
With all my soul,
And with all my strength
I choose Thy love,
I choose only Thee.

The infinite Christ Consciousness,
The “Only Begotten,”
Has come down anew to earth
For the salvation of mankind.

When we need You, Lord, our Beloved, You descend.
Our human griefs Your love alone can mend.
By proud indifference unaffected,
though eternally rejected,
You remain our Friend.

Song:

Long we feared to face Your love,
Lest our emptiness it prove!
Now at last our hearts we give You,
Who remain our Friend.

High in the Himalaya, eyes filled with divine love, Jesus appeared to the great master, Babaji.

“The lights on the high altar of my church,” he said, “have been growing dim. Though still lit on lower altars of good works, the noble taper of inner communion with the Lord burns low, and is ill attended. Let us together, united in Christ love, set lights ablaze on that high altar once again!”

Thus, a new ray of light was sent to earth through the great masters of this path.

Greater can no love be than this:
from a life of infinite joy and freedom in God
willingly to embrace limitation, pain, and death
for the salvation of mankind.
Such, ever, has been the sacrifice
of the great masters for the world.

Here, then, is the fourth and last stage
Of the soul’s long journey through time and space:
The Redemption.

Lord, we offer up the little light that is in us
into Thy blazing light of Infinity.
Grant us the grace to know Thee,
and make us ever-increasingly
pure channels of Thy love to all.

Song:

Thy light within us shining
Has shown where freedom lies:
From earthly walls confining
To soar in Spirit’s skies!

How oft, like sheep, we’ve strayed apart!
Now, guided by Thy ray,
In inner freedom of the heart
Our night has turned to day!

We celebrate the grace of God that has come anew to earth through our line of gurus: Jesus Christ, Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Sri Yukteswar, and Paramhansa Yogananda.

Joyfully lifting up our hearts in song, we pray that we, who earnestly seek communion with Your light, receive it in our lives abundantly.

Song and Arati (devotional offering at the altar):

Father, Mother, Friend, our God,
We Thy wonders all acclaim.
May our thoughts be only of Thee;
Train our hearts to sing Thy name.

All desires born of delusion
Here we lay, Lord, at Thy feet.
Thy one light brought by our great Masters,
Make us ever one with Thee.

Minister to the congregation:

We invite those who feel so inclined to come up to the altar and receive the touch of light from the masters.
As you approach, offer a prayer of gratitude to the Infinite Christ, in whose love our line of masters have descended that we might all come to God.

Pray, too, for the grace to share with all as you have received. For you are a part of all that is.
May the light of Christ shine upon you.

(Congregation approach the altar one by one, chanting “AUM Christ, Amen.” )

Let us stand, raise our arms, and send out to all the world the blessings we have received. (All chant AUM three times).

Song:

Sing out, sing out with joy!
God’s light has descended.
Sing out, sing out with joy!
All our nights have ended!

Light on every mountain,
Oh, light in every valley!
Light from all the masters:
We live in the Lord!

Go out with joy!

 

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