Today it snowed. And then it didn’t and then it did and then it didn’t and then it did and then it didn’t.

And as night fell, the clouds drew in and the wind rose. And I went for a walk because that’s what one does, of course, on a storm-threatened Holy Thursday evening.

The evening seemed angry. The wind; the clouds; the sky; the trees; the scolding, fluttering birds; the very air itself seemed to be releasing rage into the oncoming night. Or perhaps they were frightened? Or perhaps it was reverent awe bristling in the atmosphere around me on this holiest of holy Thursdays. Perhaps wind, clouds, sky, trees, birds, and air were trembling humbly before the most powerful of powerful Kings: a King so powerful that he need not be afraid to humble himself, to serve, to die.

Perhaps it was sorrow – mourning at the pending death of the King – that shook the wind; the clouds; the sky; the trees; the scolding, fluttering birds; the very air itself on this holy evening.

As I made my way homeward, contemplating the sorrow sighing through the trees, my mind landed on the German name for this holiest of holy Thursdays: Gründonnerstag. The literal meaning of this word is nothing like our Holy Thursday or our Maundy Thursday. Indeed, the word bears no connection whatsoever to holiness or to the command that we love one another.  Gründonnerstag might, however, bear a connection to the concept of mourning.

While the etymology of the word Gründonnerstag is disputed, one possible origin links this word with the old Germanic word “grinen.” “Grinen” shifted over the years into the modern German word “weinen” (to weep), but is still perhaps embedded – with an alternate spelling – in the name of the Thursday before Easter: a Thursday when earth and sky mourn the loss of a humble, loving King.

So perhaps the wind; the clouds; the sky; the trees; the scolding, fluttering birds; the very air itself were expressing not rage, but sorrow.

Or perhaps they were expressing long-awaited anticipation and cautious hope.

An alternate theory about the origin of the word Gründonnerstag notes that the word “grün” might not be a descendant of the ancient word “grinen,” but could quite literally be the adjective (grün) that describes a much-loved spring-time color. Green, in this case, most likely isn’t a straightforward reference to the greening earth that generally coincides with the Easter season, but to the medieval color used to denote the process of being refreshed, recreated, healed, made whole, made new.

Perhaps this wild night that followed on the heels of a confused day fluttering tentatively between winter and spring released not anger and not sorrow, but anxiety. Perhaps the wind; the clouds; the sky; the trees; the scolding, fluttering birds; the very air itself needed to release the anxiety that pervades times of uncertainty. Perhaps the wind; the clouds; the sky; the trees; the scolding, fluttering birds; the very air itself needed to make way for the joy and hope of new life – of being refreshed, recreated, healed, made whole, made new.

Deo Gratias!