Recently, my wife and I passed a landmark in our relationship.
We have now known each other for more than half our lives. This has been a bit of a mid-life revelation that has augmented how to view things from the other side of the "greater half."
Our liturgical seasons are a bit like that too. The 4 Sundays of Advent break open into the "greater half" of the Christmas Season. This season of Lent with its 40 days, will usher in Holy Week, Easter Triduum, and the Great 50 days of Pentecost. So as we approach these moments or even looking back, it is impossible not to see God's abundance peaking it's way through.
The snowstorm that hit the east coast at the end of January and is until now still in the process of melting away, also left me with a similar feeling. This was the first major storm to hit us this winter. Yes, there were legitimate worries about losing power, about travel safety and the rest of the concerns about weathering the storm. But it's also true, as a New York Times reporter wrote at the time, that snowstorms are one of these peculiar forceful weather events that actually make the landscape look more beautiful after the storm. There is a calm, serene, quietude in which one has to admit, the world is changed and made more beautiful.
That is perhaps the "greater half" of the storm. In a similar way, as our heads become ashen this Lenten season, we too are reminded that what falls upon us is not just the weight and fear of sin, but the promise of renewal, rebirth. The snows that melt and become the wellsprings for deeper roots, stronger forests, greener lawns and gardens, derive their life-giving power from the One who has power over Life and Death. The One who crosses over, plunges us into His death on the Cross so that we may rise to new life.
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I suffered some minor damage to my home because of the storm. I know that there are others who suffered much worse. The snow storm is not something we would probably wish upon ourselves. But we accept this in its season and prepare as we can for now and the future in that knowledge.
So too, in our sacramental life and practice. Sometimes we imagine the Lenten journey as traveling through a desert in search of water, cognizant of the things that we had given up as part of our Lenten sacrifices. But maybe too it is being overcome by the world as it is: hoarding before a storm an abundance that does not make the snows any less; working so hard to return our lives back to where they were before the storm; watching the landscape change from soft shades of white to marred roadside boulders. But perhaps, the "greater half" is not to return to normal or the new normal, but to be transformed anew.
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My daughter's elementary school ended up with a full week off to recover from the storm. Although we had managed to dig out earlier in the week, there are other areas of our county that have more difficult roads. The sheer amount of snow piled up made it difficult for pedestrians and drivers to see around and navigate safely, particularly around school areas where many vehicles and children converge. So out of an abundance of caution we delayed.
When we finally returned to school, the first two days were still very harried. I only live 2 blocks away, but it took me at least 15 minutes to work my way through the car line the first day (walking was still not possible). By the end of the week, we were more or less back to normal. Returning to her school to pick her up after an extracurricular activity, I came across a pillow with the characters from Disney's "Frozen" left on a melting mound of snow.
It was such an odd image. It must have fallen out of a car during one of the more frenzied parts of the week. And I was unsure what to do at that moment. Was somebody missing their treasured item? Should I bring it into lost & found? Maybe in the grand scheme of things, this is among the things that get lost in a snow storm along with mittens, hats, snacks, etc.
I decided to leave the pillow where it was. For me, it felt very much like a mark of a moment in time. And it was not part of my journey, nor was it clear to me whether it was part of returning things to normal, the new normal, or whether it was part of some real change.
I pray and hope that whatever happened to the owner of that pillow and however you fare this winter season, that you also approach Lent this way. May what falls upon your head and what you carry or leave behind on your Lenten journey lead you to God's "greater half."
What is the "greater half" that is awaiting you this Lent?
What will be the real change and new life in that "greater half"?
Copyright © 2016 Jay Cuasay
"Snow Melt", Photo Edited by Jay Cuasay. Original Photo Copyright © 2016 Glenn Werner Photography/Glenn Werner Photographer. Used with permission.
About the Author
Jay Cuasay is a freelance writer on religion, interfaith relations, and culture. A post-Vatican II Catholic father with a Jewish spouse, he is deeply influenced by Christian mysticism and Zen Buddhism. He was a regular columnist on Catholicism for examiner.com and a moderator and contributor to several groups on LinkedIn. His LTEs on film and Jewish Catholic relations have been published in America and Commonweal. Jay ministered to English and Spanish families at a Franciscan parish for 13 years. He can be reached at TribePlatypus.com.