Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chesterton and the Priest of Spring

Spring is creeping in to Western New York - with occasional interruptions of sub-freezing temperatures and snow to remind us that winter is not ready to give up.

The bulbs my wife planted last year are sprouting.

The robins are back in our backyard feeders, along with hoards of other hungry birds gathering at our bird feeders.

I smell the skunks when I take my dog for her morning walk.

I remembered a Chesterton piece in A Miscellany of Men that dealt with spring: “The Priest of Spring”.

He notes the many myths about this season (including a few modern ones), but, naturally turns to the Easter story.

The whole essay is worth reading (well, it is by Chesterton, after all), so I recommend that you dig it out (it’s also on line).

It concludes with:

About all these myths my own position is utterly and even sadly simple.
I say you cannot really understand any myths till you have found
that one of them is not a myth. Turnip ghosts mean nothing if there
are no real ghosts. Forged bank-notes mean nothing if there are no real
bank-notes. Heathen gods mean nothing, and must always mean nothing,
to those of us that deny the Christian God. When once a god
is admitted, even a false god, the Cosmos begins to know its place:
which is the second place. When once it is the real God the Cosmos
falls down before Him, offering flowers in spring as flames in winter.
"My love is like a red, red rose" does not mean that the poet
is praising roses under the allegory of a young lady.
"My love is an arbutus" does not mean that the author was a botanist
so pleased with a particular arbutus tree that he said he loved it.
"Who art the moon and regent of my sky" does not mean that Juliet
invented Romeo to account for the roundness of the moon.
"Christ is the Sun of Easter" does not mean that the worshipper is
praising the sun under the emblem of Christ. Goddess or god can clothe
themselves with the spring or summer; but the body is more than raiment.
Religion takes almost disdainfully the dress of Nature; and indeed
Christianity has done as well with the snows of Christmas as with
the snow-drops of spring. And when I look across the sun-struck fields,
I know in my inmost bones that my joy is not solely in the spring,
for spring alone, being always returning, would be always sad.
There is somebody or something walking there, to be crowned with flowers:
and my pleasure is in some promise yet possible and in the resurrection
of the dead.

1 comment:

Orphans of God said...

Chesterton always has a way of turning every day things over so that we can see them in a new light.