by Dr. Tony Kireopoulos
I am not the first to contemplate snow as a metaphor for grace. A quick Google search demonstrates that countless others have done so. But as I sit in my chair in the corner of our sunroom, surrounded by windows that look out on our dormant garden, the alley that borders it, on the other side of that our neighbors’ yard with their kids’ jungle gym and other toys scattered about, and beyond that the tall trees quivering in the wind, and look out on the freshly fallen snow for the umpteenth time this winter, I’m drawn to this analogy.
One of the most touching reflections found in that Google search points out all the sublime aspects of this comparison: like God’s grace, the snow is “powerful…silent…beautiful and bright…covers everything…and is pure and clean” (Fr Peter Daly, National Catholic Reporter online, 1 Jan 2016). Certainly, both snow and grace are all these things.
Yet, tempted as I am just to sit here and contemplate the beauty of it all, the comparison calls to mind one other thing for me: responsibility. Just as grace pulls at our hearts to live out the Gospel in our encounters with others in our midst, and urges us to open our mouths to preach the Good News to those who would listen, the snow calls us from the comfort of our contemplation to responsible action once it falls upon us. And this responsibility is summed up in one such action, in yet another metaphor: shoveling.
With all the exertion it requires, and the aching muscles it portends, shoveling is now required of us so that, through the snowfall all around, we can carve a safe passage between our front doors and the wider world beyond. We need to shovel our walkways to give access to one another: to carriers who bring us mail; to delivery drivers who bring us our online purchases; to friends who bring us, and to whom we bring, joy; to elderly neighbors for whom we are happily obligated to shovel their walkways. Grace allows us to bear one another’s burdens; snow gives us the opportunity to lighten another’s load.
And as we shovel, we just might get to witness yet another metaphor come to life – literally. Just the other day, I noticed alongside a cleared walkway the first sign of the spring to come: crocuses pushing up from the frozen ground. Like many gifts of the Spirit, it was totally unexpected, on so cold a day, so early in the year, so life-affirming in their greenness. They reminded me of people, yes people, with their arms reaching up through the detritus of the last year and longer, their hands stretched out, not just for the warmth of a new season, but for renewed life after a seeming eternity of shadow and death.
The signs of this new life are many. They are revealed in the surging demand for the coronavirus vaccine after years of science skepticism and denial, and in the growing realization that we will in fact awaken from the nightmare of the pandemic. They are visible in society’s understanding that Black Lives Matter, and in its acknowledgment of an immigrant’s dreams of freedom at the border. They are demonstrated in the assistance given to those suffering economic distress, and in the kindnesses shown to those experiencing hardship in storm-ravaged Texas. They are seen in the renewing calm after so many divisive lies, political outrages, and instances of civil unrest, and in an increasing appreciation for what we can achieve together – even a mission to Mars!
Only in metaphor can snow, shoveling and crocuses translate to grace, responsibility, and life. Only through metaphor can the heaviness of winter transform into the lightness of spring.
About this blog: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the original author and were prepared in the author’s personal capacity. These views and opinions do not represent those of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, its member communions, or any other contributors to this site.