Monday, March 2, 2015

If It’s March, then It Must Be Lent

My beloved speaks and says to me:
“Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away;
for now the winter is past, the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines are in blossom;
they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
and come away.

Song of Solomon 2:10-13

In his hymn to love and to spring, the writer of the Song of Solomon announces joyfully that the winter is past and the rain is over and gone.

Sadly, our winter is not past.

Easter is in April this year, as it most often is. And that is a good thing. Easter belongs in April. April has daffodils. And warm sunshine. And green grass. In this winter of  unending cold, we can’t wait for April and Easter.

In March, most of the time, the wind is still cold. The branches on the trees are bare. We gain more sunlight in March and in any other month, but it does not really warm up until it is nearly April.

This year especially, March is the time when we are almost ready to give up, and resign ourselves to endless winter. March is the time when we can hardly believe that spring is possible.

Lent is always in March. Lent belongs in March. The stark themes of repentance and suffering fit the landscape. Bleak and barren. A time of sharp contrasts. It is too cold to spend much time outside. But in the few days when the sun is warm and it feels like spring, it is a gift. Something unexpected.

I am not sure whether we really need another cold month, but we need Lent. We need some time to sing our songs in a minor key. We need reflection and the renewal that comes with it. I love that time in late April or early May, when in the space of a week the buds turn into leaves. I love it when the daffodils burst into bloom.

But the changes of March are largely unseen. Beneath the surface bulbs are turning into flowers. Without the unseen changes of March, the visible beauty of April and May would be impossible. Our spirits need that same time for unseen growth and change. In the cold darkness, God is at work. Frozen spirits are opening. New life begins.

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