Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival
Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival by Rudolf Steiner
Berlin, December 17, 1906
This lecture was delivered beside a lighted Christmas tree adorned with the signs depicted here, as well as with thirty-three wax candles and fresh red roses.
We shall now hear the words that reflect the deepest meaning of the Christmas Mystery. These words have been heard by the pupils of the Mysteries of all ages before they entered the Mysteries themselves:
Behold the Sun
At midnight hour,
And build with stones
In lifeless clay.
So find in world decline
And in the night of death
Creation’s new beginning
And morning’s youthful strength.
Let heights above reveal
The Gods’ eternal word,
May depths preserve and seal
The peaceful treasure-hoard.
In darkness living
O now create a Sun!
In substance weaving
O know the Bliss of Spirit.
By Rudolf Steiner. Translated by Henry B. Monges.
“The celebration of Christmas is the festival of the Sacred Night, which, in the great Mysteries, was celebrated by those personalities who were ready to bring about the resurrection of the higher self within their inmost being. Today we would say, “Within their inmost being they gave birth to the Christ.”
This moment will arrive at some time for everyone. All men will ultimately experience it, even though perhaps only after many incarnations. The moment will arrive for everyone when the Christ will rise within them and new seeing, new hearing will awaken within them.
In his preparation, the pupil was told that the one who really wished to know should not merely know what has taken place during thousands and thousands of years on earth, but he must learn to survey the entire course of human evolution, realizing that the great festivals have their place within this, and that they must be dedicated to the contemplation of the great eternal truths.
Just as the light disappears at Christmas, so apparently has rhythm disappeared from the life of man and chaos prevails. Man, however, gives birth to this rhythm out of his own initiative out of his own inner nature. He must so fashion his life out of his will that it takes its course within rhythmical boundaries, steadfast and sure, like the course of the sun. Just as a change in the course of the sun is unthinkable, even so is it unthinkable that the rhythm of such a life be interrupted. The embodiment of such a life rhythm was to be found in the Sun Hero. Through the strength of the higher man born in him, he gained the power to rule the rhythm of the course of his life. This Sun Hero, this higher man, was born in the Night of Consecration.
The Midnight Mass, which the first Christians celebrated in caves, was in memory of the Sun Festival. In this Mass an ocean of light streamed forth at midnight out of the darkness as a memory of the rising sun in the Mysteries. Christ was thus born in a cave in remembrance of the cave of rock out of which, symbolized in the growing stalks of grain, life was born. Earthly life was born out of the dead stone. So, too, out of the lowly, the Highest, Christ Jesus, was born!
The legend of the three priest-sages, the three kings, was linked with the Christ Birth Festival. They brought to the Child gold, the symbol of the wisdom-filled outer man; myrrh, the symbol of life’s victory over death, and finally, frankincense, the symbol of the cosmic ether in which the spirit lives.
This shall resound from the Christmas celebration, and the spiritual light shall radiate from it. Let us celebrate Christmas as the festival of the most lofty ideal of the Idea of Mankind, so that in our souls may rise the joyful confidence: Indeed, I, too, shall experience the birth of the higher man within myself. The birth of the Savior, the Christos, will take place in me also”.