Winter Spirituality

by Lisa DeRosa
Manito Tree in Winter Light

by Elaine Breckenridge,

For many years, I dreaded the seasons of autumn and winter. I objected to the denuding of trees and the harsh cold; the dark days and the long nights. I held onto my discomfort for dear life-like leaves that should have surrendered to the ground long before the first frost. 

In those days, I wondered if creation felt pain as she watched her leaves turn from green to the brilliance of color fading to brown and then falling to the ground? I wondered if creation suffered like I did as I watched her cycle through birth, growth, decay, dying, death? 

I had a change of mind and heart when I discovered Celtic spirituality. The Celtic worldview has helped me to appreciate the natural flow of darkness and light, cold and heat. As I tuned into the changing seasons of the year, I came to see these cycles as natural and began surrendering to both creation and the similar changes taking place in my own body and life. Now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, I find it a joy to follow the lunar and tidal cycles and celebrate the ebb and flow of life. 

Winter has taken on a whole new meaning as I now understand that it is not a season where everything dies but regenerates. I give myself permission to regenerate as well. For me winter is really Sabbath—a gift to savor.

Winter Sabbath ed

Winter Sabbath

During this season of gestation, I am incubating and in discernment wondering what is yearning to be born now that I am retired. I am holding a quote by Joseph Campbell who wrote, “You must be willing to leave the life that you planned in order to find the one waiting for you.” 

I look for the divine light in all things. That is not to say that I am loss, grief, and pain-free, any more than all of us living through this ongoing pandemic and poverty of both of body and Spirit. Yet, rather than giving in to fear and resisting what is, I try to surrender, daily in prayer and meditation to a divine grace who is beyond my understanding, but always there, loving and standing watch with me. I practice what Teilhard de Chardin called, “trusting in the slow work of God.” 

As we move into the coming holy seasons of Advent and Christmas, perhaps your daily practice might include meeting and praying with God in and through creation. Perhaps taking an extended Sabbath will enable you to discover new soul seeds asking to be nurtured. Perhaps you will deepen your practice of witnessing the presence and light of God in all things. 

In a book called The Circle of Life, by Joyce Rupp & Macrina Wiederkehr, I echo their invitation, “This winter let this become your prayer, “I am the one for whom God waits! I am awaiting the One who is awaiting me! Embrace the season of winter with hope. It is a good teacher. It will lead you to your inmost depths where God is contemplating you.” 

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