Life and FaithTheology & Spirituality

The Hidden Drama of Late Winter

For years I’ve dreaded February as one of the hardest months of the year. Maybe it’s because Christmas cheer is by now a distant fog, or because the weather acts like a hard-bitten old man. Maybe it’s because of inner maladies—winter blues and the like. February was my personal season of spiritual crisis for some time.

I recently learned that early February is part of the liturgical season of Epiphany. Not having grown up paying attention to the church calendar, I didn’t know that Epiphany is a whole season and not just a one-Sunday afterthought to Christmas. Liturgical types call it the Season of Light.

This far up the Northern Hemisphere, it certainly doesn’t feel like the Season of Light. Where I live, New Yorkers flock to Hot Chocolate Festivals and serially awful Valentine’s Day movies to paper over the dullness of winter. (Thought: Maybe that dullness is really the dullness of our own hearts.) But Epiphany says, “New weather isn’t the fix you need. What you need is revelation, and it’s here…now.” It calls us to the Light of the World.

Similarly with Lent, which we’ve now entered: By Ash Wednesday even the thickest head has computed that the days are getting longer and spring is close at hand. “Not so fast,” says Lent. “Resurrection is coming, but it only comes through death. We will never see Life if we don’t face the sin that turns us back to dust. So don’t put your hope in the brightening year—hope is beyond this world.”

But the Resurrection does eventually come. When it does, earth and heaven come into harmony for a brief and beautiful season around the arrival of Easter. Easter is (usually) a panoply of flowers and sunshine, splendid hymns and small fry adorably dressed. And brunch—a true foretaste of glory

Of course, the seasons are switched in the Southern Hemisphere, and seasonal variation in the tropics looks different altogether (“Will my roof keep the monsoons out?”). That might suggest that the notion of looking for meaning in various combinations of weather and church calendar is, at best, fanciful. Entirely right. But God “gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did” (Rom. 4:17). Being made in His image, we are all imagining something at any given time. Let’s be careful not to imagine that there are times devoid of meaning, or that seasons are a meaningless cycle with an unfavorable cold spot in which we happen to be sitting.  A higher drama is playing out in our lives and through the world itself—even when it least looks like it.

–Emily Schatz

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