“Some say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.”
Robert Frost, whose very name was cold, speculated that fire would be the world’s end in his poem “Fire and Ice.” He readily admitted, however, that ice “would suffice.”
This winter, snow and freezing weather hold the lead in apocalyptic threats to the Diocese of Wilmington.
Six weeks of winter still to go and we’ve had enough snow. Sometimes enough is too much. When my car got stuck as I tried to back it down the incline of my driveway, this year’s serial snowstorms became enough.
A newspaper editor friend of Mark Twain, Charles Dudley Warner, once said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”
“Nobody” does anything if you don’t count the road crews who salt and plow, the people who shovel and clear walks or the folks who are awake before dawn to set out for jobs that are impervious to weather, such as first responders, healthcare workers, and those TV weather forecasters who broadcast the obvious about current conditions, make educated guesses about the next storm and who tend, at times, to nurture the public’s anxiety with vague warnings about about future storm fronts.
The meteorologists of today harken back to the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi, a pre-Christian priestess ready to predict the future without being too specific.
Dwelling on the future, whether tomorrow’s climate or money markets, is part of the human condition. Many of us stay awake at night until we “hear the weather” that’s predicted on television. That habit is a secular ritual that offers a soothing reassurance some kind of tomorrow is coming, whether partly cloudy or fair.
Once, when they were afloat on the Sea of Galilee, St. Matthew tells us, the Apostles had a weather scare when a violent storm threatened to sink their boat. Jesus, at the time, was asleep in the boat, unconcerned about the weather. When the Apostles woke Christ, he called them out on their lack of faith, then proceeded to scold the storm and calm the sea.
In a sermon by St. Augustine about Christ calming the storm, the church Father recommends we wake up Christ, despite his apparently groggy irritation on the boat in Galilee, when we confront storms in our lives.
“Don’t let the waves overwhelm you by disturbing your hearts,” St. Augustine said. “But because we are human, if the wind blows, if it upsets us, let us not despair: let us awaken Christ so that we can sail on a tranquil sea and reach our homeland.”
Each stormy winter, we manage to be surprised it snows. Every torrid summer torments us with its degrees of heat. But St. Augustine wasn’t talking about the weather, neither was St. Matthew. Both were telling us to wake up Christ in our lives when confronted by the surprising storms we inevitably face.
This year is new but we know that during it we will be “surprised” by loss, illness, unemployment or other storms we can’t predict. But whenever the waves pound our boat, the ice threatens our commute or our hearts despair in sorrow, we must remember to awaken Christ in our lives, as St. Augustine said, “so we can sail on a tranquil sea and reach our homeland.”
Or so we can survive another snowy winter to reach the green rebirth of spring.
Ryan is the editor of The Dialog.