The following article was written for the Spring 2020 edition of Roqueta, Menorca’s English-language magazine. It was submitted before the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic manifested themselves not only upon the island, but upon a large swathe of the surrounding world.
Spring comes to Menorca bringing renewed life, restored business, fresh people – and some absences and omissions.
There is a night prayer in the Prayer Book of the Anglican Church of New Zealand that says: “The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities.”
Change a few words, and it might be a winter prayer for Menorca: “The winter is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enfold us, all dear to us, and all who have no peace. The winter heralds the spring. Let us look expectantly to a new season, new joys, new possibilities.”
But new growth in the spring is not the whole story. In Menorca, not all the businesses or restaurants that were present in the autumn will reappear. Not all the people who were in Menorca in the autumn remain. Not all the visitors, even the regular ones, will return. Have we forgotten the demise of Thomas Cook?
Of course, there is no spring without winter (even if my wife believes that we don’t have ‘real’ winters in Menorca!). For those of a Christian faith, the climax of the springtime renewal is to be found in that ultimate renewal, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Yet as I wrote two years ago, there is no resurrection without the crucifixion. This seasonal remembrance of life cut short and life restored is intended to remind us to have hope and faith.
We have to accept the death in order for new life to occur. Yet how willing are we to face endings for there to be new beginnings?
The theologian Karl Barth once wrote: “Only where graves are is there resurrection.” The American writer Eugene Peterson added to this: “We practise our death by giving up our will to live on our own terms. Only in that relinquishment or renunciation are we able to practice resurrection.”
A life lived purely for self is not really a life lived at all. Anyone who has experienced parenthood will understand this. Last year during Lent I read a reflection by a young mother who admitted that she had a proclivity to be egocentric – until she found herself as a mother of three young sons, which demanded of her much self-denial – and in which she found both personal and spiritual growth.
We are communal beings, designed to live in families and communities, and our lives are fundamentally interdependent upon one another. Even the most introverted amongst us needs some sort of communal support.
As we appreciate the spring, and the new life that it brings, we might consider how we contribute to communal life. Society has tried to teach us that we want success but what we really crave is wonder. We find wonder when we allow ourselves to appreciate the environment in which we live – and in Menorca, there is abundant opportunity to do so. We find wonder when we engage in the use of creativity which brings us into partnership with our creator. And we can find wonder in the art of building community with those near and far.
There is a flip side to this. Paradoxically, though we may be communal beings, even the most gregarious amongst us needs some solitude.
In the seven weeks leading up to Easter, Christians mark the season of Lent by commemorating, in one way or another, Jesus’ time alone in the wilderness. For him it was the beginning of his ministry, but also the first steps on a journey that would lead inexorably towards rejection, suffering and death. It is intended to be a season of abstinence, of fasting, of spiritual discipline (and not, in fact, a sort of secular self-improvement regime).
Wilderness time is meant to give an experience of self-denial or austerity. However, I have a confession to make: I actually like being in the wilderness – or at least, a physical wilderness. An emotional or spiritual wilderness is not necessarily such a pleasant thing to experience. But wilderness can be a place of beauty and an opportunity to experience creation in a more undisturbed state – a place rather like many parts of Menorca in the winter! Being in the wilderness gives us an opportunity to satisfy the need for solitude that we need, to a greater or lesser degree.
Finding a balance between solitude and community requires discernment and growth – part of life’s journey of learning about ourselves and our world. Finding a balance between embracing the new growth of spring, and the relinquishing of that which needs to be allowed to die, similarly presents us with an ongoing challenge.
As Menorca gradually, and then rapidly, springs into life, may we each seek ways to engage with our responsibilities as members of the communities in which we live and move and have our being. May we also find ways to nourish ourselves with a degree of solitude – and appreciate the gift of the wilderness parts of Menorca in which we are blessed to live.