Seasons of the Soul
Growing up in Eastern Washington, seasonal changes were an accepted and expected part of life. We knew that the days would get shorter and the nights longer, the weather would get colder, and sometime in late November or early December, the first snow would fall. As we snuggled into our warm houses and settled into winter activities, it seemed only right that we enter into a more reflective, quiet time liturgically too. Advent was a subdued time, with focus on preparing spiritually for the coming of Christ. Christmas cards and Christmas carols, with talk of cold weather and snow, all seemed a natural part of the season. That’s the way it was outside and it was all I knew!
Then I grew up and moved to coastal California. It still got cold in the winter, but mainly the cold was from the humidity. My first Christmas in California, I went home and got my wool clothes so I could stay warm. We only got snow on rare occasions and it never “stuck.” We often had warm, sunny days in December and January. The iris were even blooming in planter boxes in front of the bank in January! My sense of the seasons was completely thrown for a loop. Christmas day, with temperatures in the mid-60s, just didn’t feel quite like Christmas.
I was reassured to find that my mother-in-law, who was born and raised in Southern California, also had problems getting into the swing of Christmas when the weather was too nice. She commented one year that she was really glad the rains had finally come, so she could get into the spirit of Christmas.
I find myself reflecting on these memories now, as we reach Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent. Rejoice! we are told. The time is near.
What time is near? Does it have anything to do with the calendar and the way we fill our days with preparations for the celebration of Christmas?
What I am coming to understand is that liturgical seasons have no real existential tie to the physical seasons of the year. If they did, we’d have to have different liturgical seasons in the Southern Hemisphere and in the tropics, because the weather there is totally different from that of northern climes.
No, liturgical seasons are something more. They are seasons of the soul, condensed into a one year period and repeated on a regular cycle, so we can taste them, savor them, and move on to the next. By repeating them on an annual basis, we are able to enter into them differently and perhaps more deeply each time they come around. As we move through the ups and downs of our daily lives, we become more or less in touch with the gifts each season brings. We learn more about longing for God, or about finding “God with us,” or needing someone to rescue us and set us on our feet again! Having the chance to move through these seasons of the soul on a regular basis can help us move through them with hope when the events of daily life bring them crashing into reality in our personal worlds.
So, as we reach this third week of Advent, as we hear the call to “Rejoice in the Lord,” let’s each look into our heart and see what it is we ask of the Lord – what we really want. Then let’s join together in “joyful expectation as we await the coming of Our Savior Jesus Christ…”