Saturday, May 01, 2010

Hiems Erat

Every spring, as faithfully as a Saint's Day on the liturgical Kalendar, it recurs: my impulse to cling to winter, to the season of cold, dark, snow and skeletal branches. So, needless to say, my ears perked up at last week's Gospel reading:

It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

I gazed past the candles, Eastertide's abundance of them, and past the altar and baptistry flowers, toward Jesus walking in the wintry temple. Back to the time before. We are celebrating the time after, the time of feasting, the time of alleluia with eggs, lambs, children, buds, blossoms, Mass without confession, baptism, crafts fair, confirmation, joy, joy, joy.

And natural world is in the throes of its own resurrection, the cold, bracing yellow of the forsythia giving way to nuptial white and nursery pink.

Thank you, anonymous compilers of the lectionary, for this small grace, even icier in Latin -- ...hiems erat. Et ambulabat Jesus in templo, in porticu Salomonis -- dropped like surreptitious crumbs under the table where we hibernophilics and vernophobics hide.

The curve of the world is skewed toward light and heat, toward sunny dispositions and warm hearts, toward conviviality, life together, toward people who simply cannot understand how one could be otherwise inclined. In the standard Biblical lists of charisms and gifts nowhere does one find affinity for cold, darkness and solitude.

Such a disposition is characterological, aesthetic and existential; it thrives on the minor and the modal, chafes at sunny major keys.

It thrives on liturgy, the more formal the better, as a space in which the irritable self can sink away and relationship is choreographed, almost mimeographed, a massive, collective glyph signifying awe.

The return to the world is inevitable, of course, the world of relationship and the language and grammar of process which, even in churchly matters, seems more managerial than ecclesiastic. Little wonder that I have obtained a Latin Missal: I inhale it like bottled oxygen in my Mount Everest Project of Churchgoing.

It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon.

And he goes on to say

My sheep hear my voice.

To my ear, that voice sounds so much more clearly and carries so much farther in the cold winter air.

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