By Barb Arland-Fye
My fingers and toes, protected against the elements, still stung as I filled the gas tank of my car on a recent bone-chilling night. Winter’s ferocious bite caused me to think about a prayer I typically say during pleasant weather conditions: “Thank you, God, for the beauty of your creation and for allowing me to savor the beauty of your creation and revel in it.” Guiltily, I realized that prayer has gone into hibernation!
Walking into church and out of the sub-zero cold to attend a liturgy committee meeting last Saturday morning, I jokingly said: “I have two brothers who live in Arizona. I don’t want to live in Arizona, but I’m thinking about asking them if I can move in from January through March!” After I shared my dislike of winter, Rita, a fellow parishioner, responded with enthusiasm: “But it’s sunny outside!”
Her response echoed in my mind as I prepared to lector that evening at Mass and as I prayed Evening Prayer just before Mass. Scriptures and prayers for The Epiphany of the Lord cultivated the hope that springs from faith in God’s promise of salvation.
In the first psalm from Evening Prayer, God “summons clouds from the ends of the earth; makes lightning produce the rain; from his treasuries he sends forth the wind…” OK, maybe the treasury includes sub-zero cold. I’m chalking that up to discovering the blessing conveyed in temporary, frigid weather. Still, the image of God sending forth gifts of creation from his treasuries reassures me.
So does the hopefulness of this passage from Isaiah 60:1-6, which I had the privilege of reading at Mass on the Solemnity of the Epiphany:
“Then you shall be radiant at what you see, your heart shall throb and overflow, for the riches of the sea shall be emptied out before you, the wealth of nations shall be brought to you. Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, proclaiming the praises of the Lord.”
Cold weather heightens my sense of physical discomfort and leaves me restless at being cooped up indoors. For my son Patrick, winter represents a time when much of God’s creation “closes up shop.” But that’s when the cultivation of hope occurs.
Lyrics from “The Rose” come to mind: “Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows, lies the seed that with the sun’s love in the spring becomes the rose.” God is at work, planting seeds that we need to discover and cultivate with God’s guidance.
In springtime, plants and animals come out of hibernation. When we go outside, “everything is back alive, the trees have budded; you can smell the flowers,” Patrick says. We’ve come to appreciate spring in our family by keeping a lookout for the first buds on the trees. Our son Colin, the master observer, notices the first signs of greening and alerts us. What a delightful blessing from God!
Forecasts call for warming temperatures this coming week, followed by another dip into the cold. The sting of winter will return. But as Isaiah exhorts in his proclamation of salvation, I have much to be hopeful for.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at email@example.com.)