The Winter of Our Sins
April 24, 2013
‘Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ hath burst his prison,
and from three days’ sleep in death
as a sun hath risen;
all the winter of our sins,
long and dark, is flying
from his light, to whom we give
laud and praise undying.
Verse 2 of Come Ye Faithful Raise the Strain.
Text: John of Damascus; trans. by John Mason Neale, 1818-1866
As a fiction writer, I give a lot of thought to sin. It’s the stuff of a character’s flaws—that juicy tid-bit of dark past which provides them with enough internal conflict to make a reader care about them. Interesting, isn’t it, that it’s the character’s flaws that makes us care? I could probably write an entire, lengthy post on my writerly definition of sin, but this is an Easter site, so I will spare you.
Last week I struggled to write my hero’s turning point in my current work-in-progress. The poor guy just couldn’t let go of the mistakes he had made. I tried to get him there through a contorted path of personal epiphanies. I sent him up the Amazon River on an introspective journey into the heart of darkness. But no amount of penitential sweating and mosquito bites would make this character of mine believe he was good enough for his girl. I wanted to hop into my computer, take him by the shoulders, and shake him. Until, finally, he made a phone call and heard from the mouth of his best friend that he was really truly forgiven. And the next day in church when we sang my favorite Easter hymn I realized why.
Pretty much the only way we move beyond sin is to shine a light on it—to confess that in some way we have failed to live up to the person God made us to be. Sin spawns in darkness and secrecy, finding even greater power over us. When we reveal our shame to someone and hear love and acceptance in response, we begin to believe we are in fact worthy of love, both divine and human.
Recently, I confessed to my husband I have been ashamed by my failure at balancing all my vocations as a priest, a mother, a wife, and a writer. Hiding that shame was making me defensive and irritable with him. But when he listened with compassion and let me know he thought I was doing a better job than I was giving myself credit for, spring arrived almost instantly in my heretofore wintry heart. We’ve been enjoying the flowers in bloom ever since.
Most churches skip the confession of sin during the Easter season, but if you are still feeling a little wintry, ask yourself if there is something in your heart that needs to see Christ’s light?
Thoughts, words, and deeds? Things done and left undone? Failure to love?
Confess to God or to someone you trust so that you too can sing “Tis the spring of souls today!”
For several years I have made the Confession of Sin very personal by switching the pronouns to I, Me and My instead of we, etc. The confession then becomes that much more personal and more meaningful to me. “I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed by what I have done and what I have left undone.”
George E. Hilty
Beautifully insightful. As I recall, Senator Robert F. Kennedy put this notion into currency by referring to the concept of shining a lantern onto national problems of guilt and shame. We make no improvement while we simply curse the darkness. We begin–ever so slowly–when we light the candle!