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home : bishop : columns

2/16/2017 9:00:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
A vacation for winter?
BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


Ads in these northern climes are filled with fantasies of trim, tanned, bathing-suited twosomes, sauntering blithely along edens of coconut palm-fringed beaches. Cruise ships sporting banners like "Carnival Sunshine" and "Regal Princess" beckon us to paradise, offering celestial banquets of rum punch and exotic fruits, magic carpets of crystal-blue waters and sun-drenched sands and all at painless prices.

Albany-on-ice is not so fun a city in these days when winter has reasserted its claim on our region. For those who make their way to work each morning on CDTA buses, it means bracing against cold, choking winds along icy, slippery sidewalks.

Then to think that nights this time of year can be colder than days on Mars! Who doesn't wish that winter would take a vacation?

Adding to our miseries during these "tunnel months" of winter are Christmas credit card bills now come due. Those love letters from the IRS, enlightening us about the cost of last year's earnings, offer little to cheer us up -- except, perhaps, a reminder of how close April 15 is.

We are actually closer to this Memorial Day than to last Labor Day, if that's any consolation; and, though Easter will be late-ish (April 16), Ash Wednesday is but two weeks away (March 1).

From the perspective of church administrators, this means double-checking that the palm supplier received last May's order for the required number of bags of palms (Palm Sunday is April 9) and the publisher has the Easter schedule and letter from the parish pastoral leader. We are always looking ahead.

Then there was "The Bug" that most of us were tossing around like a volleyball from school to home to office and back again. It never seemed to go away. I relearned the fun of making chicken soup -- a skill not difficult to acquire -- and the added value it imparts to the kitchen and beyond just to be able to inhale its aroma, if nasal passages permit. If not, and if the taste buds are not up to par, it's just good and good for you. Do drink it!

Forgive me for this indulgent attempt to put a positive spin on the horrors of winter -- not a particularly brutal one as winters go, but still one that most of us are glad to be about two-thirds through. We need to keep a sense of humor about us -- which, if you haven't noticed, is in mighty short supply these days, with all that is going on in our troubled world.

The salt chloride caking up the church steps or our sidewalks can make us pretty salty, too, if we allow ourselves to freeze up inside. So can overindulgence in network and cable news (fake or real), which is programmed and wired to keep you programmed and wired. That's a great prescription for the miserable world of insomnia!

St. Teresa of Avila reminds that weather is inevitable, as predictable in our spiritual world as in the often unpredictable cycles of the seasons. Nor are the two necessarily worlds apart. A good deal of evidence is piling up that the dark days of mid-winter and depressive states have a biological connection: Simply said, light breeds light and gloom breeds gloom.

If you can't stand the cold outside, at least keep your insides warm! This is no season for letting hell's wrath immobilize us with spiritual frigidity.

I mentioned Lent and Easter -- coming sooner this year, incidentally, than tax day. Even in these two few remaining weeks of Ordinary Time in the Church year, there is much "chicken soup for the soul" to soothe us in parish liturgies and personal prayer.

Dante, you know, depicted hell itself as a progressively cold region where, the lower you go, the more immobilized you get. That need not happen to people of faith who snuggle up to the warm fireplace of God's love.

Forget the distracting screens all around us and think of spending a few moments each day with the Bible or with a good prayer app like iBreviary or Examen. Let your heart feast on the fast flames of the Holy Spirit's inspiration. Send the devil of winter away and tell it to "get a life."

Meanwhile, enjoy the same Spirit who hovered over the chaos at the beginning of creation and now calls our souls into God's warm and soothing hearth. Send winter on an early vacation!

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.)





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