All of you who have been waiting to find out whether I enter Lent crippled this year will be pleased (or perhaps outraged) to learn that I am not. This is a good thing, a grace, actually, since once again I didn’t do any of the exercises I resolved to do to prepare myself for this spring marathon of kneeling and getting up and kneeling again.
I learned to appreciate the seasons when I was a college student in Columbia, Mo. We lived across a road from the Stephens College (not my alma mater) natural area, and we would walk into the woods every day and sit on a rock overlooking a small creek and talk and look around and listen. We went in the morning and at night, all through the year. Sometimes we went down and walked along the creek. Sometimes people came upon us, talked for a while and went on. We discovered a badger and watched the birds and the squirrels. Once my husband and a friend were walking down by the creek and suddenly started dancing around and leaped into the water. What’s wrong? I asked, when I could stop laughing. They didn’t know, but it turned out that they had been walking in a garden of nettles.
The seasons changed imperceptibly, and yet a mark would come around, and we would notice that the new season had come — the turning leaves and then the snow and then the new greenery and then the dusty, lacey, weary leaves of the late summer. Every year different and yet the same.
The Church is like that, and the seasons have their own turning, their own markers. It’s not spring, summer, fall and winter, though the Church seasons are hinged to the year’s cycle. We look up and it’s Lent, Pascha, the Dormition fast, Nativity, and Lent again.
Forgiveness Sunday is one of those markers. The annual rite of forgiveness is a chance to see our parishioners like flowers arrayed in their spring beauty, not in dress or appearance, but refocusing on the relationship with each one, made clean again in the exchange of grace.
Whether the ground hog is sore or not, it’s seven weeks to Pascha.