by Chris Koellhoffer, IHM for January 7, 2018
What is the gift of winter? After more than a few days of fierce wind, snow measured in feet rather than inches, sputtering car batteries, and layers of ice so thick it laughs at the puny scrapers with which we threaten it, we might be tempted to utter an incredible “Gift? You call this a gift?” Understandably, our recent winter experiences here in the North might easily tempt us to name this season as more of an inconvenience, a disrupter of plans, a foe of travel, an enforcer of hibernation, and nothing more.
True, our sister, winter, brings all of these experiences to many of us. The deep freeze, the unrelenting cold, the snowy blanketing of landscapes, the slowing down or absolute halting of plans. As we experience all of these harsh realities, might we also acknowledge that winter comes bearing gifts? Sabbath time, hush and stillness, fierce beauty, rest, gestation and deepening. Winter reminds us that, no matter what appearances seem to imply, the universe is always invested in healing and growth and renewal, gifts of this season.
Winter is not a season of standstill. She often moves below the surface and the seen, ushering in a time of contemplative, expectant waiting, of dreams and inner visions. She calls us into a slowing of our steps, into mindful movement, into a hush of silence, into a rhythm of seeming to do nothing but go deeper. She offers us the grace to mine her presence, to reflect on the bareness of trees, the stillness of landscapes, the darkness of star-filled nights. She invites us into sacred rest. Most of all, she challenges us to foster and nurture a winter soul.
In “Winter Spirituality,” a guest post for the Monk in the World series, Nancy L. Agneberg reflects on her own preference for the gifts of this season and on having just such a soul.
“I value the harvest of fall, the energy of spring, the secure lingering of summer,” she notes, “but even more I covet the lairs of winter, the hidden passages, the unlit corridors, the streamlined views, the bareness of the horizon. The action coldly stopped, frozen without conscious time. I’ve done what I can all those other days and months and now it is time to leave what is undone and to unwind the sweater til once more it is yarn. It is sheep. It is essence.”
So especially during this season, may we cultivate patience to listen to the unresolved questions frozen in our hearts. May we believe in our resiliency when we are wintered. May we trust the love and mystery deep within ourselves and others. May winter reveal to us the hidden, the invisible, the heart of what really matters. May we foster a winter soul.
Take a few minutes to sit in the stillness of this season.
If you are in a wintered area, gaze out the window or walk outside if it’s safe, temperature-wise. What do you see?
What are the challenges, places where you feel frozen, stuck, or hardened in your life? Where in your life might you be dreaming of a softening or awaiting a thaw?
Invite the Holy One to winter in you.
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