Popular wisdom has it that, as the month of March comes in, it will go out the other way. That is, if it starts like a lion, it will go out like a lamb, and vice versa. To the extent that we are conscious of this homespun wisdom, we’ll be a little more conscious of the first few days of March.
I was interested, in checking my religious calendar, to see that from a religious point of view, the month of March comes in during the first week of the Christian season of Lent, and on the fourth of March, the Jewish community celebrates the Feast of Purim. What a rich season, if we are at all tuned in to the rhythms of religious time!
If you are not Jewish, you may not be aware that Purim is a joyous holiday, commemorating the end of more than two centuries of exile under the Babylonian empire, as well as the rescue of the Jewish people from an extermination plot by the heroic Esther. For those readers who have never read the book of Esther, it is an adventure story full of intrigue and cliffhangers as the plot of the wicked Haman is foiled by Esther, the Jewish queen whose uncle tells her: “Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” It’s good reading.
Perhaps the connection with Lent is not immediately evident, but remember that Lent is the period of 40 days, plus Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to Easter in the Christian calendar. Lent is the story of Jesus’ journey to the cross and his resurrection, the story of salvation. The connection between the two March seasons is this: that God’s great project with humanity is one of freedom and forgiveness. The month of March, which also contains the start of spring, is a time when our thoughts turn toward renewal and rebirth, of a God who ushers out our old, worn-out human ways and introduces new ways of thinking, being and living, more suited to our creator’s project of continuing to make things new among us and for us.
One of my favorite hymns had words composed by Alfred Tennyson:
Our little systems have their day
They have their day and cease to be
They are but broken lights of Thee
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.
It happens that Tennyson wrote these words not long after the untimely death of his best friend. He had tried in vain to explain this tragedy by conventional, rational arguments, but found them all wanting. What he needed was not answers, but a renewal of hope, the assurance that, however difficult or dark life may be, the light of God is greater than our darkness.
As we celebrate Purim … as we tread the thoughtful days of Lent … God help us hold on to the hope of renewal, rebirth, even salvation.
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.