Spring Cleaning vs. Spring Fever

The first thing that comes to mind for many of us, especially mothers, when the winter truly begins to recede and the warmth of spring stirs in the air is spring cleaning. The sudden and welcome urge to get behind the furniture and under the carpet, to expel and ruthlessly scrutinize the contents of a closet, to polish windows inside and out, to leave no nook or cranny in its complacent stupor lying under an undisturbed layer of winter dust; this urge seems to well up from within the very foundations of our nature and give us an almost preternatural energy to go to all lengths to expel dirt. Kenneth Grahame opens the first chapter of The Wind in the Willows with the Mole spring cleaning: “First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash…” How salutary this seems, especially when seen as a physical expression of the life of the Church and the soul during Lent: “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes,” (Is 1:16), and “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet…” (Heb 12:12) Somehow, to get down on all fours, roll up our sleeves and scrub, or to get down on our knees, examine our conscience and amend our lazy ways gives us a sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and peace. Thank God for this new-found zeal that carries us forward again to new life!

Clean Souls! 4th-5th grades at the JPII Shrine

All this is worthy of our attention and truly necessary to a healthy life of the whole human person. But there is MORE! Spring cleaning is not the last word about spring, but only the preliminary action required to be able to enjoy fully the pageant placed before us both in nature and in Salvation. It is rather, perhaps, spring fever, not spring cleaning, that gets to the heart of spring. As the first timid buds appear on the dormant trees and the first pale green blades break through the surface of the sod, and the first fierce petals dare the frost, we are invited to experience the drama of the creation and re-creation of life, not as spectators, but as participants. To witness the unfolding of spring and long to be out in it, breathing it, tasting, touching and testing it, wondering at its many-layered, undiminished ever-newness — this is the joy of every child. This is the excitement captured so well by Kenneth Grahame when Mole finally gets fed up with spring cleaning and answers the imperious summons of the springtime above: “Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing….he suddenly flung his brush down on the floor… and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his waistcoat. Something up above was calling him imperiously…” This divine summons and Mole’s immediate and reckless response call to mind another Divine summons: “Follow me…Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” “Follow me… And he rose and followed him.” (Mk 1:17-18, 2:14)

If only we, like Mole and like all children in the happy throes of spring fever, could heighten our soul’s awareness of the shocking newness of the Paschal Mystery; if only we could taste the spring fever of the spirit as we com-passion-ate Christ in His Passion, and gaze with wonder and awe with Mary at the fierce, unheard-of glory of the Dying of the God-Man —- What a tremendous joy would be ours at the dawning of the First Day of the Week! Here again our beloved Mole seems to capture the moment, “Jumping off all his four legs at once, in the joy of living and the delight of spring without its cleaning…”

“This is fine!…This is better than whitewashing!”

Post by: Holly McShurley, Chelsea 4th Grade Teacher

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