St. Leo the Great, who was a pope a few centuries back, said this in one of his sermons:
Dear friends, at every moment the earth is full of the mercy of God, and nature itself is a lesson for all the faithful in the worship of God. The heavens, the sea and all that is in them bear witness to the goodness and omnipotence of their Creator, and the marvellous beauty of the elements as they obey him demands from the intelligent creation a fitting expression of its gratitude.
I read it a few years ago, and it has stuck with me, on some level for quite a while. I’ll read it again tomorrow morning in the Office of Readings. I like the way he addresses us as “Dear Friends”. I like the rest of what he says.
The sun, could I see it now, would , we might say, be almost at the Meridian. I know nothing of Latin, and little more of anything else, but I think that word means something like mid-day. In fact it lacks five minutes of Noon on a cloudy, slightly drizzly day. I wonder now if Noon is a word we have from Latin. But, I suspect not. I think it may be of Northern European origin . It has a dour sound, sounds a dreary note, and to my mind perfectly suits the Northern European zeitgeist. Now there’s a word no one would mistake for have an origin in the Mediterranean.
All of this is quite odd for the first day of March, that month which is said to “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb”, that month named for the Roman god of war, Mars. It is also the first day of Lent, a word that has a whole bunch of relatives in Northern Europe, most of them having to do with Spring, the time when the days grow longer and, according to Chaucer, at least in April, the rain’s supposed to pierce the drought of Mars to the root.
If that’s the case the times, they are a’changing; today at least. We have another three weeks of winter before us according to the calendar; and the length of days, the way the seasons are measured in the earth’s yearly swing around the sun, means we still have three weeks to the Vernal Equinox on March 20 and the start of Spring and all that root piercing. But Holy Church says, “Nope, Pilgrim, Lent (“Spring”) starts here this year.”
OK. Welcome Spring!
Of course, those six or seven of you reading this, and who have gotten this far; those of you who are still familiar with the Holy Season of Lent, who might still consider it a season of preparation, of spiritual preparation particularly, for Easter, are probably murmuring, scratching your heads and wondering just what am I up to. Have I a point to this? Will a conclusion be reached?
I respond: Must there be a conclusion to everything?
But, wait. I do have a conclusion of a sort. The river not too far from here, the one I can see so swollen with snows and rains that it runs over its banks, is receding slowly, slimming down as it were from having been filled beyond capacity by those very snows, those torrential rains of a few days ago. My wife and I watched it fill, and watched the rough waters flow swiftly downstream carrying branches and sometimes whole trees along the way to the sea. More rain falls today. But, I trust the spring. I do.
Ask me why, and there probably isn’t a reason beyond something to do with my faith. I know about floods and bad weather, and headlines telling the story of great damage to lives and property around this time of year. But, darn it, I can’t think of anything more than the solidity of faith about this. It’s my dike, my dam that won’t fail. It’s lent, for heaven’s sake, and mine, and Easter’s my destination.
So should you. This is all under control, and what that lady long ago said, the one in England, is true. All will be well. And March, that mad month? March will see lions and lambs together, and so shall we.
PS: I found out that I was wrong about that word Noon. It’s not a cold and miserable northern European word. It’s from the Latin, from their word for nine, and was used in the early church to signify a time of prayer. So, it’s kind of a sacred word, a warm word, a safe word; like Lent and Spring. Ain’t nothing to worry about.