By Maria Wiering
Springtime on the farm had a natural rhythm that heightened around Easter, when frozen earth was finally thawing and turning the farmyard into a muddy mess. My siblings and I spent our time searching for new litters of kittens and collecting eggs, which we had missed during winter’s dark days when hens take leave from laying.
Crocuses peeked through lingering snow patches and red-breasted robins appeared, marking the dawn of longer days and warmer weather. The quality of light slowly shifted, so that in comparison, Lent did seem darker and Easter much lighter.
I grew up in southwest Minnesota, a stretch of flat prairie checkered with fields of corn, soybeans and wheat. There the winter seemed to last forever, especially to a kid anticipating summer swimming and bike rides. Lent was a time of penance not only because I gave up sweets every year, but because I was weary of winter.
Every year, Easter seemed like the anecdote to cabin fever – the sign that spring really had arrived, and the snowfalls were over – usually.
Even now, I appreciate how the liturgical calendar mirrors the mood of the transitioning seasons. Easter’s arrival means farmers’ markets will soon be selling spring greens, and other fresh vegetables will soon be stuffing their stalls. Even though we blew our horns on Jan. 1, Easter seems truly to mark the New Year as signs of new life abound.
My family observed Holy Week like a lot of other families in our parish, joining with the community for the Triduum liturgies and joining with aunts, uncles and cousins for a ham dinner on Easter Sunday. The bright green buds sprouting on the trees and new piglets and calves added that extra undertone that connected our ordinary lives to the life of the church.
In the next two weeks, we will go through the Triduum and enter the Easter season with all its symbolism of new life. For a farm kid like me, the bunnies and eggs make perfect sense. In the Book of Revelation, the glorified Christ says, “Behold, I make all things new!” There is no reason fresh green sprouts erupting from the black, seemingly barren earth can’t also speak to the Resurrection, as do the more overtly theological symbols – the light bursting from the darkness, the flowing waters of baptism, the stone rolled away.
Scripture is chock full of agrarian imagery to help us to understand our relationship with God, especially planting and harvesting. That imagery is something I have kept in mind throughout this spring – early as it has come – and even though it has been years since I lived outside a city, it is something that still accompanies me out of Lent and into the Easter celebration.
Maria Wiering is a staff writer for the Catholic Review.