A Catholic Monthly Magazine

In Winter

By Fr Kevin
Bates sm

In winter the earth seems to slow down and even though the days are shorter the nights are much longer and slower! It’s good sleeping weather and perhaps hard getting-out-of-bed weather! The dark mornings seem to be saying “Don’t get up yet, no hurry!” The bare branches of many trees leave skeletons waiting to spring into life again when the time comes. 

The cold air on your face as you leave home to greet the day can both invigorate and distress, depending on which side of the bed saw you off this morning! These winter movements and these stillnesses in nature have much to teach us.

In winter there are warm soups, firesides, snow-fields to ski, football to enjoy, and for those more fortunate, warm homes to return to each evening. 

In winter, many people sleep rough, just as they do through the other three seasons. In winter, people sleeping rough have fewer ways to keep warm than the rest of us. 

In winter, job losses, cuts to welfare payments or social services seem to bite that bit more deeply as power bills, food bills, accommodation costs, all mean the sort of belt-tightening that leaves people simply surviving rather than living. These winter social realities too have much to teach us if we are listening.

In our own personal and spiritual lives we know times of winter. Important relationships struggle for air, for “quality time”, and sometimes for resolution. Our connection with the sacred, with the deeper things, with God, will also have its time of wintry absence and uncertainty.

There’s a lot to like about winter and there’s a lot about winter which brings discomfort, doubt, struggle. It’s a time both of hope and of wondering whether our hopes will ever be realised. 

The land lies fallow in winter, not much grows and nature simply waits. In the winters of our heart story, we too need to wait as the time for regeneration will come in its own time. In the waiting can be the great grace that comes when we engage with suffering, incompleteness, failure and sin, and prepare the soil in which new grace can grow. 

We live in a world which is impatient with the winter of the soul. Too often we choose the tactics of denial and distraction.

We attempt to turn back the clock to previous spring-times. We try to doll up ageing bodies as if they were still in the bloom of youth. We create the illusion that spring is the only season worth living and so we try to fabricate a world of plastic “springs”, and the powerful, life-sustaining lessons of winter never get to offer us their wisdom and proper nourishment. Our world then starts to look like a sad product of our false economy, rather than the loving mother who sustains all that lives. 

May our winter time this year be a season of glad hope. May it be a season of courageous suffering when that is our lot. May the grace of God sustain us even as the fields of our soul lie fallow and show little signs of life during these wintry months. May the seeds of patience, trust, endurance and hope be planted once again deep within us and may these seeds then blossom into a bountiful springtime in God’s good time. 

Nature does indeed take its course whether we allow for it or not. Let’s allow winter to have its day and engage again with trust in the rhythm of the God-given seasons that give our lives the shape and direction that God’s Love has intended.

In the meantime, keep warm! Love keeps an eye on you in every season.  

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