It doesn’t feel like Spring this morning. I woke to the wind rattling about the eaves of the house and to leaden clouds, so unlike the mild sweet May-like weather we had on Saturday to make it seem almost laughable that we were able to have our first meal on the patio and that Philip had said that it was too hot for a fire in the fireplace that night—but indulged me anyway.
But I know that Spring is more than a promise. The tiny green berries in my strawberry patch declare it, as does the ecstatic mockingbird who sings his matins and his vespers in the hollies outside the kitchen door every day. The blackberry and raspberry canes, undaunted by the forecast of snow flurries, all have sturdy green clusters of leaves just getting ready to shoot off in all directions, and my much-loved flowering cherry has been opening its fluffy pink ballerina skirt-blossoms before my very eyes, it seems. I can’t believe that after this last cold snap of aptly-named blackberry winter, that it will be time to nestle the seeds of summer flowers in their waiting beds, to set out little tomato plants with their cages seeming all ridiculously out of proportion, to start watching for aphids on my roses. I hardly feel ready for it, and all its heady joys.
Perhaps it’s because Easter hasn’t come yet. This hint of winter today is like the holy pall of Lent upon my soul. Gentle, solemn, not unwelcome. I have a living picture before me in this sudden hush of growing and rejoicing, this pause in all the mad exultation, that seems to befit the remembrance of this most Holy Week. It’s as if my heart is saying, No, not yet—it isn’t seemly to celebrate the resurrection of creation until its Creator is resurrected.
Until the ever-risen One is greeted once again with the blissful Alleluias so poignantly excluded during Lent, and upon them that sit in a darkness of indifference or apathy or mere complacency, His light shines once more, undimmed by two thousand years’ worth of shadows. I love the combined immediacy and expectation of the liturgical year, blended with such fitness of proper times and places. The translating of heavenly things into the human sphere strikes a particular chord with me, be it the wine-soaked bread of communion or the olive branch handed me by an old woman in a church in Italy. There’s just something in the tangible-ness of it all that resonates deeply and is as refreshing in its turn as the merciful variety of the seasons’ change.
A couple of weeks ago we had the joy and privilege of attending a performance of Mozart’s Requiem. To say that it was wonderful or exquisite or sublime seems kind of impertinent, for few things in this world can even approach it for sheer perfection. High, holy, transcendent, incandescent, call it what you will, it really is so futile to try and throw a cloak of words about its noble shoulders. I just sat with my eyes closed and let the music wash over me and buoy me upon its majestic waves. And that was sublime. I was particularly struck by the blind soprano in the chorus who literally felt the music, anticipated every note, and sang with the most rapturous smile on her face. I still have that image before me, and doubtless will, any time I ever hear the Requiem. But I’m so glad. She has become such a symbol to me, among all these other hints of heavenly things this season is so redolent with. For she is us. Or what we can be, when faith is dearer than sight. We’re all blind, really; we’re all looking ‘through a glass darkly’, thinking that we see the realities as they really are and all the while walking past mercies and stepping over parables in our path. It’s only when the blindness is acknowledged, the sightlessness embraced by love and surmounted by faith that the eternal verities begin to pierce the scrim twixt heaven and earth.
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes—
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Here’s my favorite movement, the immortal Lacrimosa, so particularly suited to this Lententide—which is almost over. And then, come Easter Sunday, we can join with the angels in a chorus which will never die out.
The winter of waiting is nearly over. And all creation, it seems, can hardly contain itself with the joy of it…