The Star Maiden and the Light of Justice

The word “justice” contains a constellation of many ideas such as fairness, law enforcement, and correctness. It is a legal term, a philosophical term, and a spiritual term. Since ancient times, the definition of “justice” has evolved to embrace a wide array of frameworks and issues. The ancient Greek child goddess Astraea, the Star Maiden, illuminates the ancient symbolism of hope, restoration, gentleness, and light in the origins of our ever-expanding concept of justice.

The front cover of this month’s newsletter depicts Astraea, who was a mythic ancestor of the figure we now popularly recognize as “Lady Justice.” Like Lady Justice, Astraea held a set of scales, but she was never blindfolded. The ancient Greeks personified the concept of justice as a young girl, believed to possess pure innocence and clear vision unclouded by prejudice. She became associated with the constellation Virgo. Patricia Telesco, Wiccan priestess and religion scholar, writes in her book 365 Goddess: “Astraea’s themes are excellence, learning, purity, justice, knowledge, reason, and innocence. Her symbols are stars. This Greek Goddess motivates fairness and virtue within us. She empowers our ability to ‘fight the good fight’ in both word and deed, especially when we feel inadequate to the task. …In astrology, people born under the sign of Virgo, like Astraea, strive endlessly for perfection within and without, sometimes naively overlooking the big picture because of their focus on detail. Astraea reestablished that necessary perspective by showing us how to think more globally.”

The imagery of stars and constellations, juxtaposed with the imagery of an individual child, speaks to last month’s churchwide theological theme of hope as well as this month’s related theme of justice. Our senior minister, the Rev. Kathryn A. Bert, wears a handmade stole depicting the universe and her embodied theology of relation. It beautifully illustrates a line from the song “We Are” by Sweet Honey in the Rock: “For each child that’s born a morning star rises and sings to the universe who we are.” (A former member of that group, Dr. Ysaye Barnwell, will be here to help lead worship on February 2! See our Worship schedule for details.) The combined images of celestial heavens and child draw our attention to the linked importance of the individual and the whole, the interconnectedness of the web of life, and the dual hopes and challenges that come with that interconnectedness—justice must be both personal and global.

Rev. Bert has been speaking to the congregation for the past several months about “adaptive challenges,” which are complex and require personal changes to be made within ourselves before we can fix the big-picture problems together. Creating justice requires both near- and far-sightedness and the flexibility to oscillate between those perspectives, never losing sight of their interrelatedness. In her December 8 sermon titled “What Gives Me Hope,” Rev. Bert had to deviate from her originally planned script, which was going to focus on the global problem of climate change, to acknowledge the loss of two members of our congregation and its related issues of violence. She said, “I still believe that global climate change is the ultimate adaptive challenge we face, and in truth, I speak to that challenge every Sunday—because as the cause of climate change is human behavior, then everything which helps us change our habits will help the planet survive.”

So let every New Year’s resolution move the world toward justice. Happy New Year!
-Jeannie Miernik, Office Assistant and former Classical Mythology student

Justice Opportunities at UUCGL

Last month's church newsletter highlighted ways to live out an active practice of hope for a better future through social justice work. At the start of this new year, we continue to move toward justice on many different levels. No one is called to do everything, nor is anyone capable of doing everything. Each of us has a unique set of gifts, passions, resources, and privileges to share. Givers who find their niche reap personal benefits from their own intentional generosity such as life satisfaction, emotional healing, longer life, stronger health, and a deeper sense of purpose. To hold one candle in a vigil, surrounded by love and warmth—to become one point of light within a constellation—to weave one thread of love into the fabric of justice—these experiences transform each of us. Please visit our Social Action page for a comprehensive list of opportunities within our congregation and wider faith community.