By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published April 28, 2023
The world has come back to life! Daffodils are displaying their bright yellow finery, while pear trees are imitating clouds. In the mornings, a Carolina wren, a tiny bird, trumpets a morning song that echoes throughout the yard.
Welcome to spring, my favorite season, when the rosy glow has returned to Mother Nature’s cheeks and mosquitoes still haven’t begun their attacks. Now nature echoes the mystery of the Resurrection, as bare, spindly tree limbs heed a secret message to sprout tendrils of green.
How do trees and tulips and irises know exactly what to do? Surely even the most entrenched atheists must shrug their shoulders and admit ignorance of the perfectly choreographed dance of nature. “The world is charged with the grandeur of God,” wrote Gerard Manley Hopkins—and I add, “Amen!”
One of the earliest questions in The Baltimore Catechism is “Where is God?” As a child, I didn’t quite get the significance of the answer, which was “God is everywhere.” Too often, children envision God perched upon a cloud in the sky, while our planet spins on its axis. We learn, we pray, we play and we love–until one day we join God in the Great Beyond.
But spring reminds me of how close God really is! How often we lose ourselves, staring at screens, while God is producing a five-star show in our own neighborhood. Chipmunks are calling for mates, bunnies are being born, and squirrels—well, they continue to chew on the siding of my house.
Especially in spring, we see God’s imprint everywhere. Really, could any of us have designed anything as elegant and lovely as a cherry blossom tree in full bloom? As impressive as a full moon? As mysterious as a butterfly emerging from a cocoon?
We celebrate the Resurrection of Christ just when nature itself is coming back to life. We color eggs, which symbolize new life, we hide fuzzy, make-believe chicks in baskets and delight in a little girl’s hat bedecked with flowers. Everything marches in time to the Resurrection beat!
In the grocery stores, Easter seems like an opportunity to overdose on chocolate rabbits and tin-foil covered eggs. A skeptic might say these trappings miss the point, but these delicious treats emphasize the joy of the Resurrection, especially after the harsh days of Lent. I still remember hiding a hefty chocolate rabbit in my new, straw purse Easter Sunday morning, so I could chomp off his ears right after Mass.
After the Resurrection, Jesus met his friends on the road and walked a long way with them, but they had no idea who he was until he broke bread with them at supper. What an ordinary moment that was. No trumpets, no angels, no choirs of heavenly hosts—just plain bread. Surely, if they recognized Jesus in this everyday moment, we can discover him in nature.
In the Eastern Catholic liturgy, right before the Gospel is read, the priest says, “Wisdom! Be attentive!” This same admonition about being attentive can become our mantra for springtime. Keep a close watch on the arms of trees, wearing fine greenery, and applaud the cheery faces of hyacinths.
Look for the elusive chipmunks, warming their whiskers in the sun, and the fancy gold finches at the feeder. Don’t forget that spring also beckons us to celebrate our own rebirth after the bleak, cold days of winter. We can put away the sweaters and dust off our flip-flops.
Spring calls us to become children again, celebrating the tiny dandelions in the yard and listening for owls at night. May our hearts exult in rabbits, chicks and the serenade of wrens. May we break bread with friends, walk down the road with them—and come face-to-face with God.
Lorraine has written three cozy, church mysteries, “Death in the Choir,” “Death of a Liturgist” and “Death Dons a Mask.” Artwork for this column is by her late husband, Jef. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org