ANOTHER WEEK WITH SNOW PREDICTIONS in many parts of the country. Snow is an invitation to go inside, to be still, to watch and listen.
The snow might cause us to remember the angel of Easter morning: "And suddenly there was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled away the stone and sat on it. His face was like lightning, his robe white as snow." (Matthew 28:3) When we find it impossible to describe something we resort to word-images which point us in the direction of the ineffable.
Saint Seraphim of Sarov is among Russia's most beloved saints: a monk who went into the forest and lived in hidden-ness for sixteen years. But hidden holy persons are discovered sooner or later - perhaps by hunters or mushroom seekers.
When Prince Motovilov visited Seraphim, who granted a kind of interview outside his hermitage, as the conversation came to an end, the prince testified that Seraphim's face became bright like the center of the sun and even the snow in the woods around became illumined. Saints Francis and Pio contained the wounds of the crucified Jesus while Seraphim contained the Illumination of the Transfiguration. At any rate, as in all cases, the spiritual gift was then translated into new love: Pio building a hospital for the very sick and Seraphim, a new energy in receiving countless God-seekers.
"After these words I glanced at his face and there came over me an even greater reverent awe. Imagine in the center of the sun, in the dazzling light of its midday rays, the face of a man talking to you. You see the movement of his lips and the changing expression of his eyes, you hear his voice, you feel someone holding your shoulders; yet you do not see his hands, you do not even see yourself or his figure, but only a blinding light spreading far around for several yards and illumining with its glaring sheen both the snow-blanket which covered the forest glade and the snow-flakes which be-sprinkled me and the great Elder. You can imagine the state I was in."
"Acquire the Spirit of Peace and thousands around you will be saved," Saint Seraphim said. But how are we to do that? Do everything you can to get Christ into your life; there is everything to take him away: Keep a clean heart, avoid contention, resentment and greed, live moderately and prayerfully, in humility, truth and generosity.
In these days prior to Christmas we might also see the week's snow as a reminder of God's covering or blanket-ing the world with a soft love in Jesus Christ and the wondrous things that surround his birth. How God delights us!
When I taught second grade in New York City in the early 1970's, this charming book was a winter favorite. Published in 1948, it won the Caldecott Medal for best illustration in 1949. The story and pictures convey an old-fashioned sense of wonder and delight, an appreciation of beauty and an awareness of living things. Good used copies are available inexpensively online.