Solstice: literally, “the Sun stands [still].”

The Sun is a god of constant motion. Every day of the year, he rises from a different place on the horizon.

But at the solstices, summer and winter, his movement slows. For several days in sequence, he seems to rise from the same place.

Sun stands still.

And while the Sun stands, the world waits.

The 2nd century Protoevangelium of James tells a strange story.

One Midwinter morning, a shepherd is watering his sheep when he notices that they have ceased to drink and are standing entirely still. At the same moment, a bird flying across the sky suddenly halts in mid-air. His companions, who are eating breakfast out of the common pot, stop still as statues. Those who are chewing cease to chew; those with their hands in the boiling pot do not remove them. He feels his own heart stop beating. He wonders if he is dying.

Suddenly, a great light shines forth and a voice cries out (as they did in the Midwinter Mysteries of Alexandria): The Maiden has brought forth: the Light is born.

And suddenly, everything begins to move again.

Every year, as we stand on the bridge between life and death to sing the Sun up out of Darkness on the morning of the winter solstice, there's always a moment of stillness.

A moment when the wind, and the birds, and the sounds of the wakening city all around us suddenly go still.

It's like the swinging of a pendulum: when it reaches the apex of its arc, there's always that theoretical moment when it stands entirely motionless in mid-air, before resuming its downward course.

Solstice.

Sun stands still.