In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree; in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see. (Words from Hymn of Promise written by Natalie Sleeth. Hymn #101. The United Methodist Hymnal).
Minnesota is getting our first snowfall today. If you are not familiar with the climate in Minnesota, allow me to tell you about it. Minnesota winters are really cold. In the months of December, January, February and March; Minnesotans experience temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of -35. The first snowfall can occur as early as Halloween. The snowy weather will most likely be with us through late March. It is not unusual for us to get snow in April. A year and a half ago, it snowed here on May 5. Many Minnesotans dread the first snowfall because it means the beginning of a long winter. A few of us love the first snowfall and love it until Christmas; then we wish for it to go away.
The hymn by Natalie Sleeth is one of my all time favorite hymns during the winter months. The words, “In the snow and cold of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see” are suggestive of letting go. They tell us to live by faith and not by sight. What we see on the surface covers the beauty being recreated beneath. As with anything worth while, what is beautiful and giving birth to new life cannot be fully appreciated; unless, we accept the reality of what is in the here and now. Death is a reality of life that cannot be avoided. In The Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 4 “On the Tools of Good Works” verse 47 it reads, “Day by day remind yourself that you are going to die.” St. Benedict included this as part of his admonition for us to do all we can do in the here and now. It is so vital for us to submit ourselves to the contemplative vision of God in the everyday ordinary events of life as they are.
Could the reason why we become so down and dreary during the snowy cold weather is because of how much it reminds us of death? As warm as we all are, someday our bodies too (even if we chose cremation) will sleep in the coldness of death. Yet, what is really happening is a new spring being born in snow and the cold of winter; just as the greater hope of Resurrection is awakening in death. The Preface to the Liturgy of the Commemoration of the Dead includes these words.
For your faithful people, O Lord, life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens. (The Book of Common Prayer,. p. 382).
“Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB