Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. (John 12:24)
Did you see the eclipse yesterday? Well of course, you shouldn’t have looked at it directly … But at least for us, Unlike most of the country, we did have sight of the sun through the clouds.
It was brief, and perhaps not so very different from an overcast day, but the time when the moon moved over the face of the sun here led to an eerie light, unlike anything we normally see.
An eclipse is one of those events and features of nature that is now well understood and so well documented, and yet still takes us by surprise and makes us amazed. Perhaps, unlike the ancients, we do not see it as an omen of bad fortune, but are nevertheless surprised and awed by it - however predictable it may be.
The dimming and relighting of the sun in a way mirrors what is happening in this very season of Lent. It is time in which we are aware of an approaching darkness as Jesus draws to Jerusalem, and we are await the predicted doom.
Yet is is also a time when we move, bit by bit, from the darkness of winter to the brightness of spring.
As we entered January, and the season of festivities is set behind us winter becomes a dour and dark, a cold and cheerless time. The hours of daylight are short, and overcast and gloomy. The trees stand bare and lifeless. And the mood of the earth is one that we too might share. February, when it comes is a miserable time. No wonder it is then when Ash Wednesday usually falls.
And then March arrives, and moves towards April. Still cold, and often windy, though the sun may shine. In the midst of showers there is bright sunlight. Shoots emerge from the ground. Leaves form on the trees, and the grayscale around us becomes punctuated with colour: a little green, the yellow of daffodils, the pinks of early blossoms.
As, during Lent, we do without this or that, the loss of colour and warmth which has been forced upon us begins to draw back, like the Sun remerging from its eclipse. Sunlight, warmth, colour, and the freshness of the spring breezes enlivens us again.
Here in nature - even in the nature of our lit streets and our centrally heated homes - here in nature is a vivid parable of the mystery of our faith.
Drabness gives way to colour, darkness recedes in the sunlight, sorrow surrenders to joy and death gives way to life.
Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain, but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.
There is no gain without pain, no light without shadow. We must travel through darkness to light, through sacrifice to reward. We must give in order to receive. We must surrender our lives in order to gain them.
In this final fortnight of Lent - what used to be called Passiontide - this is the overwhelming message, written into creation itself, fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Christ and shared in our own lives: it is death which leads to fulness of life, and as we share in His death, so He gives us His life.