On 29th of October, all of us in the Abbey happily combined two feasts – the feast of the anniversary of the dedication of our Abbey chapel and the Hindu feast of Diwali – also called the festival of lights. For Mass and throughout the day the window sills in our chapel had lighted candles. At dinner time in the dining room we also had some lighted candles and Sisters Punitha and Jessy added their own unique light by wearing their best saris and singing the Indian National anthem. Sister Thomasina, who spent many years in India happily sang along with them and remembered all the words so well.
Around the world at this time, millions of lamps are lit in homes, temples, shops and public buildings. The festival typically lasts five days and coincides with the new moon on the Hindu lunisolar calendar. Gifts and sweets are also exchanged during Diwali as are wishes for a “Happy Diwali”.
This Eastern feast marks the first day of the Hindu New Year and takes place each Autumn around harvest time. Diwali represents or signifies the victory of good over evil or light over darkness. It corresponds in the West with the time when the clocks go back one hour and people everywhere are getting ready to celebrate Hallow e’en the feast of All Souls followed by the feast of All Saints.
We were delighted to learn a little more about Diwali from Punitha and Jessy. It helped us to see the spiritual connections between East and west and helped us understand in a deeper way that the maintenance of these connections and rituals is at the core of who we are as Sisters of St. Joseph in the diverse parts of our Congregation. Beneath the material world of the candles, fireworks and celebrations of these feasts we can see and feel the energy of the spirit, whose vitality enlivens all of us and eradicates any geographical boundaries.
Thank you Punitha and Jessy for expanding our knowledge and helping us to experience interculturation in a very real and simple way.