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The Gift of Winter

By Sister Marcella Clancy

The singer and song writer, Sara Thomsen, in speaking of her Winter Wanderings Tour talks about how the season of winter calls her to a “crawling inward”. She asserts that the hushed silence of winter inevitably draws her inward. Winter calls us to introspection in way perhaps the other seasons do not. There is the lovely promise of spring calling us to witness its soft blooming. There is the sunny allure of summer beckoning us to play outside. There is the exquisite beauty of autumn with its delicious fruitfulness delighting all our senses. Winter calls us to be more courageous of heart, to brave the chilling cold, the long hours of darkness, the stilling of the world wrapped in waiting. Winter calls us to contemplation.

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There is a tree that has befriended me outside my window in the courtyard. In the summer it looks like it has decked itself out and is ready to go to a ball. Now it seems dead. Its lovely curved branches all bare but for a soft layer of snow resting peacefully on them. I know under the blanket of snow the tree is still vibrant and that flowers lie sleeping. Even the birds chirping noisily who visit my balcony every morning in spring are now nowhere to be seen or heard. Rain makes distinctive pattering sounds as it falls. Snow is hushed and silent, soundlessly heaping up soft mounds on the ground.

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For the most part life is hidden, resting, sleeping in the winter. Winter calls us to consider what is hibernating within us, what new life is geminating waiting to burst forth in the spring. There is a natural quieting in winter. We shutter tight our windows and close our shades much earlier. Outside noises are dulled or eliminated. We cuddle into sweaters and huddle under blankets. Perhaps we also need to nestle into the inner chambers of our heart. Perhaps we are called to warm ourselves by that inner fire that burns slowly within.

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It is a challenge in our culture to listen to the quiet. It is so much easier to turn on the TV, the CD, and the smart phone that provides music, news, and distraction, literally at our fingertips. There is a certain discipline we require that other ages and cultures did not. We are very busy people. There is always another task to be done, another project to accomplish, something new to hear or report. Yet each season calls us to notice the changing season in our inmost being.

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I always tend to be a little cold. A friend once told me he thought God would send me to purgatory just for a while to warm me up a bit. So it has not always been easy for me to make winter a friend. Yet I have come to recognize winter brings its own unique blessings and inviting beauty. Earth rests in winter. Perhaps we are invited to find times and places to give ourselves more rest. This does not necessarily mean more sleep but a rather a fruitful rest that allows for creativity and generativity to emerge.

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Life is present but more hidden in winter. Perhaps we are encouraged to spend less time in the world without and more time in that hidden inner life within. Silence is louder in winter. Perhaps we are moved into more extended moments of silence, to listen more deeply to the quiet longings, urgings, and deep desires of our own heart. We wait in winter. We expectantly wait for the first warming and buds of spring. Yet there is something sacred about waiting. Waiting prepares us, helps us get ready, arouses expectations, develops anticipation, creates an eagerness for a promise we cannot yet see. What might winter be inviting us to wait for?

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A recent Gallup Poll found that 36% of Americans named spring as their favorite season of the year while 27% preferred fall, 25% summer, while only 11% identified winter as the season they liked most. Obviously we might have to reconsider what it is about winter that we are missing.

Gifts of the Winter Season: quiet restfulness, peaceful silence, comforting darkness, warmth against the chill, artistic layers of soft snow, the hidden life within, sacred waiting – which gift of the Winter Season beckons to your heart? What gift of winter longs to nourish you?

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About the Author

Marcella Clancy.LoResSister Marcella Clancy, CSJ, has degrees in nursing and theology. In the past she ministered in hospitals, taught nursing and theology at the college level and served in parishes in the Archdiocese of Detroit. Currently, Sister Marcella ministers as a spiritual director, facilitates retreats and offers presentations through Transformation Spirituality Center at our Nazareth Center in Kalamazoo.

17 thoughts on “The Gift of Winter

  1. Maria Hill says:

    Thanks, Marcella, for this beautiful reflection on winter. To answer your final question I would say that at this moment the gift of winter for me is the promise that there is new life emerging just below the surface, just beyond my senses, and hidden in the recesses of my faith.

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  2. Sr. Betsy Meagher Meagher, CSJ says:

    Walking in the cold is more challenging in winter but what beauty if you really look and walk and see what is beautiful! Thank you for this wonderful expose’ about winter and inner callings.

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  3. Brigid Scartozzi says:

    Hi sister Marcella this is Brigid and Frank from St. Rita. I always found you so insightful. Thanks for this it’s something to think about;))) Hope all is well with you!

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  4. Brigid Scartozzi says:

    Hello sister Marcella I’m an old parishioner from St. Rita’s when you were there, I always found you so interesting to talk to. This is very insightful thank you for this;)) Hope you are doing well!!

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  5. Sister Bernie Gazda says:

    Marcella…..you did it again……beautiful reflection with photography to match….thank you…..I’m grateful for the opportunity to print this…..it’s a keeper….Bernie

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  6. Joyce dropps, csj says:

    Yes my sister you have a way with words that come from your heart and enter our hearts. I like the “crawling within” invitation especially when I am getting under the covers of a throw and blanket at night. I will allow more time to feel the presence of God’s Spirit within me during this season because of your reflection.
    Thank you again Marcella,
    One of your many sisters, joyce

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  7. Leah HINMAN says:

    Thank you Marcella for a lovely reflection. I love the silence of winter as I walk outside late at night. And a special treat is to walk in the silence as the snow is falling. Unfortunately the snow fall this winter has been in short supply.

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  8. Mary Pung says:

    Thank you Marcella for a beautiful reflection on winter. It calls me to give more thought to this season and the beauty to be found there. I think of times I have just stood at a window and watched the snow gently fall. It sometime piles on trees and bushes and then to the ground. So I ask what of God’s graces fall on me and stay and which I let fall away?

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