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Revisiting Winter

~ by Phaedra Shaltanis ~

Winter’s warming fires have long ago died and spring is flourishing. The verdant grass, the perfumed air, the burgeoning trees—all pulse with life and promise, balm for the earth that has too long languished in cold slumber. Spring! We welcome you!

Only, I’m not certain I’m ready. While Nature breathes her awakening song and reclaims her vigor, my spirit remains in winter. Outwardly, vibrant colors raise the mind to the remembrance of life. Inwardly, Lent darkens the soul and draws it to the brink of death. Dust we are.

We’ve begun the arduous observance of Lent, and the lingering brightness of these spring days does not supply the proper mood. Lent is darkness. Darkness is despair. Despair is necessary. The heart weeps over its sin and the body weakens with fasting. Lenten dirges echo in our thoughts. We’ve buried the Alleluia for these forty days, and with it our mortal confidence as we remember who we are. We allow ourselves to descend, deliberately focusing on our sins and their drastic consequences. We remember, of course, that we are forgiven, but for the time, we suspend that comfort in exchange for deep repentance. Helpless, we cling to the cross with sorrow, wailing over our transgressions and pleading for mercy. These weeks shatter our pride and subdue our Christian joy.

The world shuns hardship, would never willingly abandon joy. It fights for pleasure and gratification, and really, we can understand this. After all, who among us wants to return to winter’s frigid dreariness? Don’t we all prefer comfort over distress, light over darkness? We’re thrilled with the new life bursting around us—a reward for enduring winter’s bitter stretch. Yet, spring, with its promises of rebirth, renewal, and hope, has no place in Lent; better to linger in winter, where the frozen earth matches our spirits and aids our somber meditation.

Certainly, as Christians, we cherish the gospel of Christ, which reminds us we are forgiven by grace through his blood. But until we recognize that we need forgiveness, we won’t yearn for his profound gift. Can Easter truly come to the heart that does not know Lent? We do well to welcome our soul’s wintertime guest, whose presence prepares us for that exultant, irreplaceable Spring. When we’ve completed our pilgrimage, we will arise on that Easter morn to sing with the saints and all the vault of heaven. Let us not hasten through Lent; our Easter—our promise of Spring—will come!

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