At the New Moon in Capricorn we observed the rebirth of the Light in the darkest time of the year. As the days begin to lengthen, this mystery can be observed as a physical and spiritual fact. The Full Moon in Cancer symbolizes and fosters this realization. It invites our meditations on the mystery through which the Light (still seemingly so small and weak) will be nourished, and by which it will in turn nourish the world in the coming seasons.
As the Sun moves through the Zodiac in the course of the year, it illuminates and energizes each of the four Elements - Earth, Air, Fire and Water - in turn. In Capricorn, it warms the cold, dense, rigid Earth and fuels the capacity of all things to take on the structure suitable to their nature. Whatever we are in essence now becomes realized as living form. We are fully bound into the world of matter, shaped and confined by time and place. And the Sun blesses time and locality through its radiance and warmth, making particular things and moments meaningful despite their limitations.
The Moon now brings her maternal care to nourish the newly incarnated being. In her own sign, Cancer, she is strong and confident, pouring out the water of life upon the dry Earth. We might think of the Full Moon in Cancer as a heavenly image of the Cosmic Mother.
According to the calendar of the Western Christian churches, it was at this time of year that astrologers from the East arrived in Bethlehem seeking the newborn Christ child. Their feast day is January 6, Epiphany, which follows immediately after the twelve days of Christmas and ushers in a new liturgical season, the theme of which is the spreading of the Light. The story of these astrologers, or Magi, is told in the second chapter of the Gospel according to Matthew. Guided by a star, they found the hope of the world embodied, not in a prince born at court of a royal mother, but in the infant son of an ordinary Jewish family taking shelter among the animals in a borrowed barn.
Until the visit of the Magi, the birth at Bethlehem could be seen as a local event with significance for a single ethnic and religious community. Within Jewish tradition, the Messiah had long been expected; the gospel narratives emphasize the many ways in which Christ's coming fulfilled the pattern foretold by the Hebrew prophets. The coming of the foreign astrologers now reveals the Christ child to be a Light for all the world (which itself was part of the prophecy). As objective observers from abroad, the Magi validate the event and carry word of it back to their own people.
One need not, I think, be a Christian to find wisdom and significance in the story of the Magi. The rebirth of the Light in the depths of winter is an archetypal reality - not only a natural phenomenon, but an inner experience of psyche and spirit, as we see so clearly in the unfolding of the Zodiac. The birth of the Light is at first subtle and subjective. Like the Magi, we can be guided to its obscure location via "the stars" - whether literally through astrology or simply by the grace of our inner firmament, through concentrated thought, imagination and intuition. For astrology is not only from outside ourselves; it is built into us. Our own minds partake of the same intelligence that guides the planets in their courses. The stars are mental and spiritual as well as physical; subtle as well as literal. They not only lead us to the place where the mystery is unfolding, but enable us to grasp it and to speak about it.
Like the astrologers of old who followed the star to Bethlehem, we too can greet the Holy Family in their makeshift quarters, witness the mystery of the divine presence in the world and hold its light in our hearts and minds. The vision of the holy Child in the lap of his mother is not merely an emotional event but the foundation of a world-view and a way of living. From such a direct encounter with spiritual truth will arise ethics and philosophy as well as devotion and ritual.
At this Full Moon, the Sun trines and the Moon sextiles Jupiter, lord of long journeys, philosophy and ethics, which turned retrograde in Virgo on January 3rd. This gives us an image of the deep reflection and study in which the Magi would have engaged on their return home. Mercury meanwhile turns direct on the 6th (Epiphany), in Sagittarius, preparing for a more outgoing expression of thought after a period of retrogradation. The two planets of the mind are in mutual reception (placed in each other's signs), so they may be complementary in their action even though working in opposite directions. As you receive the radiance of the Cancer Full Moon, allow its maternal energy to nourish your thought and understanding. Try to hold the ineffable in silence within, but give voice to that which can be spoken. Like the Magi, be a witness to the mystery of being and find the language in which to spread the light.
(Look for the Aquarius New Moon on January 21, 2004.)