It's February, and the lectionary takes us from the dwindling lights of Christmas and Epiphany to the drudgery of which Job complains: "Has not man a hard service upon earth, and are not his days like the days of a hireling? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like a hireling who looks for his wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me" (RSV). No month seems more empty than February—its dreariness is the theme of all the idle weather commiseration around town, and the literary types who huddle in Starbucks over MacBooks and soy lattes are updating their Facebook profiles with anti-February aphorisms from Shake­speare ("Why, what's the matter, / That you have such a Feb­ruary face, / So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?"), or Shelley ("February bears the bier") or Joseph Wood Krutch ("The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February").

Thankfully, Christians have in the liturgical calendar a potent remedy for February's doldrums. When February begins, Christmas has barely ended; when February ends we will be well on our way to the mysteries of March.

The mysteries of March—it's an expression that has stayed with me ever since I read John Saward's book by that title—are better known than the merits of February. In March the Feast of the Annunciation—marking Christ's incarnation and Mary's yes—touches the orbit of Christ's passion. In the rare years when Good Friday falls on March 25, a single day encompasses the two great mysteries: the Redeemer in the womb is the Redeemer on the cross.