Editor’s Note: As we celebrate our 5th anniversary of blogging on Beyond the Habit, we are sharing a few posts from our archives. This week, we offer a blog originally posted in January of 2020.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
About the Author
Sister Marcella Clancy, CSJ, is a member of the Congregation of St. Joseph and has degrees in theology and nursing. She has served in parish ministry, accompanied others in spiritual direction, and served as retreat director for many years. She has taught theology as an adjunct faculty. Currently she does some writing, spiritual direction, and gives presentations. She believes that the core of our life is moving toward love of God and love of our dear neighbor without distinction.
6 thoughts on “The Gift of Winter”
You might enjoy this during your retreat
After reading your reflection this morning I feel like treasuring the gift of winter in spite of the fact that snow is predicted for this morning, and it will fall upon the layer of ice on our alley. You have opened the eyes of my heart. Beauty and quiet win over inconvenience. Thank you!
Beautifully said Marcella! I love to take hikes in winter as well as other times of the year and your message says why I do this so well. Thank You. B
A pause to celebrate and honor winter. The freshness of the reflection called for a greater appreciate of the gift. This is my favorite time of the year…the pause, the glory of a fresh and inviting whiteness. Angels blessing the world.
Thanks for your reflection. I love all the seasons, but have never used the word “gift” to describe the beauty of winter. Thanks for this insight!
Thank you for the reminder that all the seasons have something to give us—
even winter! When the sun is shining, we find winter much better than when it is a grey day and sunless……….we take time to count our blessings and remember those who do not have as many blessings! We take time to read and write a note to some one who will appreciate hearing from us—we may pray and read some spiritual book— … and even take an unplanned nap– that is what we did today!!!!
Thank you Sr Marcella for your work that cheers us up on cold , and longer dark days! My brother Mike O Donnell died on December 23rd so I take time to talk to his picture or read some words he wrote on a few old birthday or Christmas cards….I give thanks for the 76 years I had him as my wonderful little brother! I was just 6 when he was born so we have been blessed many years in our friendship!