Though Winter hasn’t finally broken yet, there are signs that Spring is on the way. Across our campus, the snow is beginning to melt, and grass beginning to show again. Students can again be seen, on some days, walking in just a cassock, and children are again making proper use of the playground.
A classmate of mine once said that Wisconsin winters were formative; at the time I think I shivered a response about wanting warmer winters. But, now, after my second winter in Wisconsin, I have begun to wonder if he’s right. In a way, the cycle of the year is similar to the daily cycle, epitomized here not only by the rising and setting of the sun, the rise and fall of the temperature and the actions of animals, but also by the praying and singing of the Offices and the Mass.
So, I wonder, was he right? Does the cycle of Winter-Spring-Summer-Fall have a formative affect on those who experience it?
I think it might; though I cant exactly say why. Perhaps it works alongside the academic calendar; which, on some level, follows alongside the seasons. Once Spring is finally here, the academic year begins to wind down. Summer; which, here at Nashotah House is beautiful, comes alongside a season of relative calm in the academic sphere. Our winters are long and cold, and parallel the longest months of classes. Of course, this is all based on the perceptions of a single person, based in the seasonal world-view of the Northern Hemisphere. Someone at Moore Theological College in the Diocese of Sydney might well feel quite differently.
This leads me to a further thought: Humans tend to thrive in structured environments. Children, especially, do very well in scheduled environments. Take monasteries as an example: Monastics have an incredibly detailed schedule. Is it any wonder that those who intend to form a disciplined life of prayer form such schedules?
I don’t know that I will miss the winters at Nashotah House. But I know that I will miss the rhythm of life here, the in and out of Office-Mass-Office within an intentional community which models the Benedictine life of ora et labora, work and prayer.
As the year moves on and becomes years moving on, and as Winter follows Summer and Fall follows Spring, and the rhythms of the academic and liturgical years ebb and flow, may we become more and more conformed to the life of Christ, and more and more one with Him.