April 1, 2005

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

It's time to play, in every way

One of the things we have more time to reflect on when we’re older is the delight offered by each season of the year. The change of seasons in most parts of the country is impressive and energizing. And often this pleasure is interwoven with religious significance.

Thus, Christina Rossetti could rightly observe in her poem, Easter Carol, that “Spring bursts today for Christ is risen and all the earth’s at play.” Because of Easter, we enjoy a playful springtime of the soul just as our physical selves enjoy renewed warmth and the rebirth of nature. It’s time to play, in every way!

The RCIA candidates who’ve been working toward this day all year may now claim joyous full communion with the Church. Lenten observers can relax whatever penances they’ve been practicing in favor of renewed spiritual purpose, and all can bask in the knowledge of God’s mercy and love.

The coming of spring is also a bit like Jan. 1, without the obligatory exercise club membership. It’s a time when we feel like changing for the better. We clean the house or garage, and clean up our physical act with diet and workouts.

This is also a time for celebrating accomplishments or marking increments of achievement. Kids graduate from high school or college, and in these extravagant days, even kindergarten. They’re promoted to the next grade, flown up from Brownie to Girl Scout, or presented at recitals that display their improvement in playing piano.

People take a critical look at their homes and gardens, marking their favorite choices in seed catalogs and circling bargains in paint store ads. Teenagers jump the gun on summer clothes, wearing shorts and tank tops whenever the temperature reaches 50 degrees. The voice of the turtle is heard in our land once more.

Speaking of which, spring brings the sound of all birds singing away, dispelling the silence of winter. In fact, all our senses remind us of refreshment and renewal. We feel the touch of warm breezes and smell that distinctive “green” fragrance of budding plants. We see the cheerful daffodils, tulips and hyacinths, which bring color to the gray, end-of-winter landscape. We almost feel as though we’re sensing God’s initial creation, with a hint of the Garden of Eden everywhere.

Now, the trick is to sustain this great feeling of renewed purpose. As the spring days meld into summer and the graduations, weddings and whatever other special events marking significant moments fade into memory, we may lapse in our noble efforts. We may fall into the mental and spiritual ruts that humans are so good at digging for themselves. What to do?

Maryknoll Father Joseph Veneroso has written, “Among God’s many gifts to us, the most awesome—and scary—is free will.” It seems to me that the spiritual impetus of Easter can carry us through the inevitable doldrums of human existence and help us make the best use of our free will, if only we allow it.

With the habits of constant prayer, spiritual reading and frequent reception of Christ in the Eucharist that we forged during Lent, we can make choices that follow God’s will more closely. Our souls will continue to play forever in springtime.

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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