Lighting the Chalice and Turning the Wheel

The first time I attended a UU service, one of the things that struck me most was what I initially thought was an strange juxtaposition between the spiritually liberal attitude of UUs and the custom of the flaming chalice. In my mind, UUs represented a solid break from traditional religious institutions and dogma, a community welcoming of diversity and exploration, yet here was a ritual that could easily have been performed in any number of churches. Still, I found the ceremony of putting a single flame into a bowl to mark the beginning of the service and then extinguishing it to mark the end a timeless and comforting ritual that seemed to say, “This is church. But this is what church was always meant to be.”

chalice (1)

At this time there is an ample supply of readings for chalice lightings during pagan-themed services, but relatively few for extinguishing the chalice. My initial intention was to create a set of these that correspond with my earth-centered wheel of the year practice for the eight sabbaths, but I quickly realized that it felt like a hollow exercise without writing parallel lightings. So please pardon my additions to the already abundant lighting readings and I hope you’ll find the extinguishing readings helpful, with or without their companions. Even if you aren’t performing the chalice ritual any time soon, I hope you will still enjoy these seasonal poems.



Lighting the Chalice:

A single flame can warm a room,
A single word can calm a fear.
A single smile can lift a heart,
A single touch can heal a wound.
As the light replaces the darkness,
Let us rejoice together in its rebirth.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

As we leave this gathering,
Let us carry this warmth,
Let us share this light.
May the flame grow deep within us.
May the world be transformed by our brilliance,
As we’re fortified by the sun’s triumphant return.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

Let us kindle this flame
To renew age-old communion.
Let us plant seeds
To sprout fresh tendrils of friendship.
Let the hope of love and fellowship be born in us anew.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

A blessing to all
Who carry this flame
Home in their hearts,
Back to their hearths.
A blessing to homes
Warmed by this love,
Lit from within
By the joys of rebirth.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

As this flame grows,
So have the days.
A hint of green
Belies the end of winter.
May this warmth
Hasten the return of spring.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

Witness the end
Of our chalice’s light,
But return to the world
With watchful eyes.
Soon the earth will turn inside out
With the beauty of a thousand blooms.
Witness the end
Of our chalice’s flame,
But return to the world
With expectant ears.
Soon the gentle breeze will be flooded
With the roar of a thousand new songs.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

May this flame
Find all of us young.
May this flame
Find all of us playful.
May this flame
Find all of us curious.
Welcome to our adventure.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

This fire is gone,
But it was merely an illusion.
The true fire lives within us.
Its flame ignites our passions.
What do you love?
Who do you love?
Go forth and live your fire.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

Bring in the light,
Bring in the laughter.
Gather the love,
Gather the yearning.
Gather the games,
Gather the children.
Bring them all in,
For they nourish our souls.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

Hold on to this flame,
Tend to it well.
Mother it in the bosom of your being.
From its steady warmth
Grow a garden.
And share the fruit with everyone you encounter.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

Light this candle
With a steady hand.
Tend this gathering
With a caring spirit.
Care for this garden
With an understanding heart.
Harvest this bounty
With a determined love.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

Return to the fields
And measure the grain.
We have not yet reached the resting point.
Carry on with your work
And tend the crops.
Their worth depends on your effort.
Prepare for the harvest
And treasure your labor,
For the fullness of your reward will be priceless.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

A single flame,
The distinction between dark and light,
Cold and warmth,
Stillness and movement,
Wisdom and naiveté.
As this season marks the blending of these forces,
So let us join to harvest the blessing of our own dual natures.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

As we return into the world,
May we carry the light within our hearts,
The warmth within our souls,
The stillness within our minds,
And the wisdom within our actions.
May our harvests be as enriching as they are bountiful.
So mote it be.



Lighting the Chalice:

A light in the darkness,
Mimicking a star in the night sky.
The memory of a loved one,
Surrounded by a cosmos of kindred spirits.
Let us join in the celebration of life, of death, of love.

Extinguishing the Chalice:

Without darkness, there cannot be light.
Without death, there cannot be life.
Without silence, there cannot be music.
Without sorrow, there cannot be joy.
Let the darkness inspire us to be radiantly alive.
So mote it be.

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  • Jon Cleland Host

    These are great, and a good resource! Thanks!

  • ehrmana

    Thank you!

  • Helen Iacovino

    WOW! These are wonderful, and a great addition to UU and pagan liturgy. As an involved lay UU (a UU mystic with pagan influences, as I characterize myself) I sometimes lead worship services at Unicamp, a UU camp and conference centre north of Toronto, Canada. I will use some of them sometime, always of course with due attribution to you as the author. Thank you so much.

  • Bruce Davidson

    Hi and Greetings from Maine! I’m not exactly sure of the source of these, but I use them often in my rituals.

    Lighting the Chalice

    Unitarian Universalist Tradition

    “Our flaming chalice is a visible sign of our faith,
    that the mysterious flame of inspiration needs the
    structure of our loving covenant;
    And the chalice of love needs the light of reason
    May our community stand as proof that opposites
    can enrich each other in partnership”

    Extinguishing the Chalice

    “Energy never dies; it is forever transformed and transforming.
    The flame we extinguish is now carried in our hearts,
    From our hearts into the world.
    We are the keepers of the Flame”