As many readers are aware, I have an important sense of connection with the southern hemisphere as a result of my longtime friendship and working relationship with New Zealander, Shirley Erena Murray. In addition to being fed by the richness and depth of her poetry, time spent with her in person and through lengthy email conversations enriched me in terms of how I now view some Christian seasonal celebrations.
My guess is that the majority of northern hemisphere people rarely — if ever — think about the hemisphere-driven symbolism tied to major festivals like Christmas and Easter. For many in my part of the planet, the Christmas season is linked to snow globe scenes, horse-drawn sleighs, skating on frozen ponds, etc. It’s pretty hard for we northern hemisphere folk to get our heads around spending Christmas Day on a warm sunny beach, enjoying fresh strawberries the way Shirley explained the holiday she and husband John experienced one year.
I find it even more sobering as I ponder nature’s symbols which we in the north associate with Easter: rebirth, renewal, flowers, budding trees, butterflies, longer days, peeks of the growth to come. As so many of us delight in warm, sunrise services, I think about what’s happening in New Zealand at that moment: leaves falling, flowers wilting, shorter and colder days, etc.
I once suggested to Shirley that it must take a lot of faith to celebrate Easter in "the south"! Her quick retort was, "I think it takes a lot of faith for anyone to celebrate resurrection in our time."
What symbols could you come up with if everything in nature on Easter Sunday was hunkering down or dying? There’s a good chance that, as I watch the gradual beginning of a new cloudy day or the sudden explosive brightness of a clear morning sky, my own mind will be wandering and wondering about what awakenings will be transmitted that morning by James Webb.