Text Size

Search Articles

More By This Author

More From This Category

Article Information


By David Poultney in All Sorts

images of Lent in different seasons

I often find myself teaching about or explaining the structure of the Church year. This is inherently
difficult in Aotearoa New Zealand as the Church year evolved in the Northern Hemisphere and amid the cycle of the seasons there.
This means that the prayers and hymns we have inherited for the feasts and fasts of the year refer to the seasons there. Think of the Carol In The Bleak Midwinter. A hymn resonant with the northern European winter. A carol that is abidingly popular here though it is utterly removed from our summer.
And now we are in Lent, the very name comes from a word meaning lengthening, referring to the lengthening of daylight hours as Spring progresses. And of course Easter is saturated in Spring imagery, the Paschal lamb becomes the Spring lamb. Churches in Europe area riot of flowers at Easter.
Yet our experience of Lent is different, days are getting shorter. Summer slips away into autumn, flowers fade and leaves fall. How should we live with the tension of this? The tension we live with between our received tradition and our lived experience.
Many of us are , I suspect, good at mental bracketing. We just no longer hear the seasonal references or we discount it anyway. For some of us this will be enough.
But wait, there can be more! A healthy spirituality doesn’t discount context it embraces it and finds expression in it.
So then what of Lent amid the falling leaves? What of Lent amid the first cold mornings, amid grey skies and rain and in summer’s last hurrah?
I ask the question without an answer up my sleeve. Answers are to be found out in a shared reflection. In asking what works?
I wonder, for example, if we can learn form the falling of the leaves over Lent. As trees shed their leaves their wood is more and more exposed. Just as the culmination of Lent is the wood of the Cross.
St. Francis de Sales tells us that Lent is the autumn of the spiritual life.
He wrote that Lent, which is rooted in the story of Jesus in the wilderness, strips us and reveals the truth of us. Just like falling leaves reveal the wood of the tree. Every season has lessons, every season
opens up aspects of our faith and spirituality.
Here are the familiar words of AA 77 The Sacrament of the Seasons
Jesus comes to me as a springtime tree
and I receive him as a springtime tree
Fragrant the blossoming of the child,
fresh with laughter, free and wild,
and carrying the green of summer.

Jesus comes to me as a summer tree
and I receive him as a summer tree.
Warm in the sun and richly laid
with patterns of growth through light and shade,
and carrying the fire of autumn.

Jesus comes to me as an autumn tree
and I receive him as an autumn tree.
Season of ripeness, brightly ablaze
like a torch in the quietness of closing days
and carrying the wood of winter.

Jesus comes to me as a winter tree
and I receive him as a winter tree.
Gentle the cross and gentle the snow,
gentle the path where he and I go,
carrying the buds of spring.

May every season be a window into truth
David Poultney