A couple of weeks ago, winter finally decided to hit Southeast Michigan, despite the flip-flop of warm and cold we’d had since the official start of the season. It’s been in the single digits for the majority of this new year, and while the native Michiganders might enjoy the ice and snow, this transplanted Hoosier is ready for spring.
It’s been hard to pray this winter. In the mornings, it’s easier to stay huddled under the blankets for a few more minutes than get up, start my routine, and focus on morning prayer. Staying after work for the 5pm Mass feels like a penance—it’s bitterly cold when I step out of the chapel, and I hate driving home in the dark and snow. My apartment is constantly chilly, and I’d rather curl up with a blanket and zone out with a book than pray Vespers when I get back from work. It’s harder to see God’s hand in the beauty of creation when I’m fishtailing through an icy intersection, and there’s no way I’m stepping outside for a Rosary walk.
Yet, there are the days when I sit on the sofa and watch the snow fall, soft and sparkling, and the kids playing. Sometimes we get those dazzlingly bright days too, when the sunlight makes shadows blue on the snow. There are just enough moments of brightness to bring hope that the grey clouds won’t last forever. And of course, there is always the Church to tap me on the shoulder and remind me that there’s more to life than the weather.
Have you ever noticed how the liturgical year ties into the seasons of the earth? In past centuries this might have been more obvious, as many of us are no longer tied to the land, and know the weather as something that affects walking between the house and the car. But especially in the northern hemisphere, the holy days and liturgical seasons interlock with our climate.
As the leaves die and the frost comes, we are given Advent, which helps us to sanctify the end of the dying old year as we wait for Him who is Life itself. When the days are darkest and we barely see the sun, winter cradles the homely, gentle, joyful feast of Christmas, and we welcome the Light of the World with the returning light of longer days.
And somehow it seems thoroughly fitting that Lent usually starts somewhere in the depressingly gray month of February. Even as the snowfall seems endless and we get tired of a cycle of sweaters and scarves, we begin to do penance in preparation for the very heart of spring, the great feast of Easter.
Sometimes, it seems just a little harder to have faith in the depths of winter, for it’s easy to focus on my own comfort first and be discouraged in the darkness. Thankfully though, the seasons roll on, and so does the liturgical year, bringing reminders of a supernatural life, beyond clouds and snow and bundling up in the cold.
Copyright 2016 Rebecca Willen