It is hard to reconcile the images of the beginning of Lent and snow on the ground. Having traveled twice now to the Holy Land, and seen with my own eyes both the lush greens surrounding the sea of Galilee and the harsh, hot desert around Jericho – the site of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan river – it is hard for me to get ‘snow’ into my images of Lent.
Isn’t Lent supposed to be about the purifying fire of the desert? Isn’t this period about going out into the empty wasteland of both our exterior and interior deserts, there to listen for and discern the invitation of God to rend our hearts and not our garments. Aren’t the images of Lent those of a purifying fire, of gold that is tested by fire, of chaff that is thrown away into the unquenchable fire? What in the heck does all this SNOW have to do with that?
And then, a memory tickles, a line from Psalm 51, prayed each Friday as a part of Morning Prayer in the divine office.
Indeed, you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart, teach me wisdom.
O purify me, then I shall be clean.
O wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may revive.
From my sins, turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.
We know full well, that first morning look at snow, freshly fallen on the ground. There is a silence in the air, an unspoiled beauty, born of the one light Eden saw play, as the old song goes. And something in us stirs, a longing for that purity lost long ago, a desire for a wholeness that is not of our own making, a freedom born from a love beyond our ken.
It is that love which reconciles Lent and snow; love unveiled in its fullest measure on the Cross of Calvary. It is there that our Lenten journey converges with our Savior’s journey. And from the blood and water flowing from the pierced side of our Lord’s heart, we are indeed washed and cleansed and made ‘whiter than snow’.
Lent and snow? Perhaps we will see more of the white stuff before this winter is done with us. If so, count it a blessing – and an invitation – to remember and embrace the love that does make us clean.