On Thursday 21st March the season of spring commenced. In the spring season life is rejuvenated. It awakes from the long winter sleep to herald the newness of life. Spring is a temperate season because it falls exactly in the middle of two excesses, the harsh coldness of winter and the scorching heat of summer.
Robin McLaurin Williams’s anecdote regarding spring is very telling: “Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!’” Yes! Nature parties! The flowers bloom, the grass gets greener, and all nature simply goes back to its original beauty. Thus, in spring, every living creature resumes its own journey of authenticity. If the physical nature, in spring, gladly goes back to where it was before the winter season, how much more the spiritual nature looks forward to return to its true beginnings?
And we, as human beings, our spring means precisely to return to our real image, Jesus Christ. The prototype of our humanity! Nicholas Kabasilas, a great medieval Byzantine mystic and theological writer, and a declared saint within the Orthodox Church, whose feast falls on June 20, writes in his magnum opus On the Life in Christ (Περὶ τῆς ἐν Χριστῷ ζωῆς): “Human nature was created with the New Man (Christ) in mind from the very beginning. Man’s intellect and desire are created for Christ: we have received the intellect so as to know Christ, desire so that we might be attracted to Him, and memory so as to bear Him in us. And this all the more since He served as our creation’s model. Indeed, it was not the old Adam who was the model (Παράδειγμα) for the New, but rather the New for the old. For us who recognise him as our forefather, the first Adam seems to be human nature’s archetype; but for Him Who beholds all beings before they exist, the forefather is only an imitation of the new Adam, in Whose image he was created”.
Hence, if being human means going back to Christ then spring makes all the more meaningful what the famous Russian writer and one of the greatest authors of all time, Leo Tolstoy, had to say about spring in his novel, Anna Karenina: “Spring is the time of plans and projects”. Now, if spring means reverting to our real self, Christ, what are precisely our plans and projects? The Bible says it all: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5). Therefore, spring means essentially having Christ’s mind. Adopting his way of seeing and doing things.
Two things that certainly help us enter into having Christ’s mind, and thus initiate us in his eternal fruitful presence, are prayer and repentance. Prayer is when we enter ourselves to meet the Christ who lives in us! St. Augustine made the following convincing appeal: In teipsum redi. In interiore homine habitat veritas (“Return within yourselves. In the inward man dwells truth”). In a speech to the people the Bishop of Hippo powerfully urged this principle when he said:
“Return to your heart. Why go away from yourselves? Going away from yourselves you perish. Why go the ways of deserted roads? Come back from your wandering that has taken you so far away and return to the Lord. It can happen quickly. First, return to your own heart; you have wandered and become a stranger to yourself: you do not know yourself, and yet you are seeking the one who made you! Return, return to your heart, detach yourself from your body. . . . Return to your heart; see there what you can perhaps perceive of God, for that is where you will find the image of God. Christ dwells in the inner man, and it is in your inner man that you are renewed after the image of God”.
Real prayer has got its results as the season of spring surely does. In case we might neglect this pertinent reality the famous French novelist, Victor Hugo, in his famous novel of the 19th century, Les Misérables, does well to remind us of it when he reflects: “If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring”. And, given the Lenten time we are in, how can we ignore that one of the best ways of showing real love is precisely by repentance?
John Chrysostom gives us a practical lesson regarding real repentance. He presents five paths of repentance. First, contrition. “A first path of repentance is the condemnation of your own sins: Be the first to admit your sins and you will be justified” Second, forgiveness. It means “put out of our minds the harm done to us by our enemies, in order to master our anger, and to forgive our fellow servants’ sins against us. Then our own sins against the Lord will be forgiven us. Thus you have another way to atone for sin: For if you forgive your debtors, your heavenly Father will forgive you”. Third, prayer. “It consists of prayer that is fervent, careful and comes from the heart”. Fourth, alms giving. “I will mention alms giving, whose power is great and far-reaching”. Fifth, humility. “If, moreover, a man lives a modest, humble life, that, no less than the other things I have mentioned, takes sin away. Proof of this is the tax-collector who had no good deeds to mention, but offered his humility instead and was relieved of a heavy burden of sins”.
Spring culminates its purpose when it brings in us that continuous journey of healing and transformation. Yes! The season of spring passes but one’s continual growth in holiness, coached by perseverance, leads to eternal life! The everlasting spring season!