It caught us quite by surprise on Sunday, with two inches falling in an hour. Equally swift were the flurry (if you’ll forgive the expression) of images from all parts on social media. We had to be quick to capture the Narnia-like perfection before it was gone, and there is something in that haste. It amazed and cheered us.
One of the Fathers remarked as it fell, that the snow makes everything quiet, it softens the edges, everything stops and the light changes to a comforting, bright glow. The poem of the Belfast-born poet, Louis MacNiece also comes to mind. He remarks on the incongruity of ordinary things against the snow, transfigured in its light. That blanket of snow, which covers everything outside, just highlights the plurality of things within — he experiences for a moment “the drunkenness of things being various.” Perhaps MacNeice himself witnessed such sudden snow-falls from his window at Merton, though I am not so sure he would be one for Instagramming it.
There is something of a parable in all this snow, which speaks about God’s action in our life. The snow comes so silently and, despite the predictions of the Met Office, as a surprise. It brings joy, elicits a sense of wonder, and brings out the child in even the most grown-up of grown-ups. Its brightness and quietness seem to make everything new, clean and simple — almost miraculous. But the snow is passing. The clouds part, and the day moves on and by tea time it is melted, yet surely something of the memory, of the wonder remains.
Grace doesn’t just cover the ordinary and the corrupt in a blanket of snow, but rather, it works from the inside out. Sometimes in the spiritual life God allows us little moments like a snowfall. Perhaps the grace of a good confession, a sense of consolation or wonder at the reception of communion, or the joy and elation at the liturgy or a procession. Perhaps it is in the quiet moments of prayer when we feel his closeness and can open our heart to his. Whatever the moment, however fleeting, the wonder and the consolation are proof enough that God’s action is working a small miracle in us several times in every day. We just have to be alert to it.
Perhaps in these coming days as we welcome the time before Lent, we can try and be attentive to those many little miraculous moments God will give us if we allow allow him to, when we can welcome with surprise the fact that he is closer to us than we are to ourselves.
The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.
World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.
And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes—
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one's hands—
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.
Louis MacNeice (1907-1963)