For so many of our ancestors who lived close to the land it was the season of Spring that began the new year; indeed the numbered months of the calendar—September (Seven), October (Eight), November (Nine), and December (Ten)—only make sense if you start counting with March. And Spring had a deep and renewing meaning for our spiritual ancestors who named this season “Lent,” from the ancient word meaning “length,” for the longer days that Spring brings. During Lent we are invited to open ourselves up in particular ways to the light of God—even when it can still seem distant from us.
I want to share with you part of an extraordinary poem. I don’t know for sure that it was written for Lent but I have my hunches (the poet, W. S. Merwin, was the son of a pastor and his earliest childhood writings were hymns celebrating nature that he wrote for church). I do know for sure that I find great meaning reading these words during this Lent as I and you and the whole world experience heartbreak as well as, I hope and pray, joy each and every day.
To a New Year
With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away….
so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come…
and our hopes such as they are
– W. S. Merwin, Present Company
(Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2007), p. 129.
Rev. Dr. Fred Weidmann, Senior Minister