This week I read the news that the preceding 365 days had been the rainiest year-long period in history. Hah! I thought, with feelings of both vindication and accomplishment, as if my team had achieved some record of performance, or perhaps my prognostication against all odds had come true. It had indeed been a miserably wet year, getting my attention with the first rainy August I ever remember (yes, August), and a rainy autumn (remember how wretched it was?), followed by a wet and snowy winter, culminating in our current second-consecutive soggy spring. I knew all along we were onto something big!
Of course I rushed to read the article that detailed the downpours, which made clear that it was more moisture than had fallen on Washington in any 12-month period since records began being kept….in 1871.
Since 1871? Really? A lousy one hundred forty-eight years counts as all “history”? Our neighborhood has trees older than that. That period doesn’t even include the American Civil War – and that was some pretty important history, with epic rains playing a big part in it. "Since 1871" might work for oh, I don’t know, a baseball record; but for a weather record? There’s been weather for millennia!
Such overstatement in an effort to make something – or ourselves – seem special is right up there with the (not un-ironic) boast of my college, asserting that its campus features the “longest single-span non-suspension concrete footbridge in the United States,” thereby proving that with enough modifiers, anybody can hold a record. And “since 1871” does not carry the same heft as would truly all history.
Wasn’t it wet the years Washington’s army wintered at Valley Forge? Didn’t it rain an awful lot right before Martin Luther unleashed the protestant deformation? I seem to recall that the Magna Carta was signed in the midst of historic rainfall, and I am pretty sure that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon only after waiting for unmatched floods to recede. And let’s not even go into what Noah had to say about his whole experience with rain and that ark of his.
C’mon, folks, hyperbole is fun, but let’s remember what is truly history. I’m pretty sure that Saint Bernadette has the winningest 12-and-under girls’ softball team in the history of Archdiocese of Washington CYO. And that is something to be proud of, but always with an appreciative eye on the modifiers.
How much did it rain the year that Our Lord died on the cross for us? That’s a question, though no system was in place to measure or record heaven’s tears. How much did the average temperature drop when Adam and Eve lost the warmth of intimate union with their Creator, to which we habitually attribute a gentle, semi-tropical climate even more perfect than San Diego’s?
You and I who know our God have a richer understanding of history than statisticians of any specialization. All time begins with God’s loving into being (bang!) this universe for us, and will be fulfilled only when His saving Word completes the work for which he sent Him to dwell among us, in history. Time, place, and event would otherwise mark only our futilities, and progress would have no purpose or goal without Him. Only God’s taking flesh in the incarnation, then offering it to his Father in his Passion and death, bringing about His resurrection and ours, is perfectly unique in all history. Everything else is just, well, singin’ in the rain.
Truly He is risen! Alleluia.