Padre’s Corner: Spiritual spring cleaning

St. Brendan’s Chapel at Stadacona.

Padre’s Corner: Spiritual spring cleaning 

By Padre Lt(N) Tim Parker,
BAdm Chaplain

Publication of this edition of Trident (March 20) coincides with the first day of Spring. Our thoughts turn from the cold and dark of winter to the newness of spring as we look forward to the warmth of summer.

The first day of spring has, in many cultures, marked an annual tradition of spring cleaning in the home. In ancient cultures, spring cleaning was often tied to religion. 

In the Jewish custom, spring cleaning is linked to Passover in March or April, which marks the liberation of Jews from slavery in Egypt. Before the start of the holiday, a thorough cleaning takes place in order to remove any yeast bread, or chametz, from the home. This is because when they left Egypt, the Hebrews could only take unleavened bread, which became a symbol of their survival. Passover commemorates their historical liberation from slavery and so they carefully remove any leavened bread as a sign of their gratitude to God. 

In the Christian custom, Catholics clean the church altar the evening before Good Friday, also normally in March or April. Members of the Greek Orthodox church clean house for a week leading up to Lent.

Persian New Year, called Nowruz in Iran and elsewhere, coincides with the first day of spring. The 13-day celebration traditionally involves cleaning or “shaking the house.”

The Chinese celebrate the holiday of Ninyabaat near the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The essence of this tradition encourages cleaning bad luck and misfortune out of the home in accordance with Feng Shui practices.

In more recent times, the tradition of spring cleaning became a practical necessity. Beginning in the 19th century, the biggest annual house cleaning took place in the spring because, back then, lamps were lit with whale oil or kerosene and houses were heated with coal or wood which was all very dirty, so winter left homes coated with a layer of soot and grime in every room. 

In many religious traditions, the human body can be a temple, or a house, of God – a place where the believer shares in the divine life. And yet, religious believer or not, we are all familiar with the reality of our spirit becoming grimy and covered with soot. Perhaps we have lost track of our purpose in life or maybe we have forgotten that our life has infinite meaning – it may be time to spring clean our own spirit.

Whether you look to your own religious tradition or some other source of inspiration, do consider spring cleaning for your soul. When our soul is freshened up, hope springs eternal, and everything can seem new again. We are not meant to live bogged down in the grime that can gather over us during a personal dark winter – we are meant to be people of hope – resilient, resourceful, renewed, and ready to accept the joys of life and to cope with its challenges. Seek out that inspiration which will cleanse your soul. Happy Spring!