I think we don’t celebrate May Day because we don’t celebrate much at all. We’ve lost the rhythm of feasting and fasting. We’re caught up in the holidays manufactured by the retailers.
We don’t celebrate May Day because we’re out of touch with the natural world and cannot celebrate the joy of the natural world. We also don’t celebrate May because we don’t celebrate motherhood and Mary. May is Mary’s month, and in this month of May there is something more alive and beautiful and innocent and free about the world. That May is Mary’s month is somehow fitting. The whole world is alive in a fresh way in May, and the whole world came alive in a fresh way with Mary. G.M.Hopkins’ poem May Magnificat captures it in a way I could never do. May is Mary’s month.
Maybe because I am getting old, and because I spend far too much time sitting in front of a screen tapping and typing. I spend too much time sitting in a car zooming about doing who knows what and who cares, but I don’t see the trees. I don’t hear the birds. I don’t see the children. I am blind to the beauty of the natural world. I am blind to May and blind to Mary. I remember when I first started to pray the rosary–it was in Spring and as I prayed a strange thing happened–a new dimension of reality in the natural world opened up. It was as if the leaves and trees, the sky and the breeze had an edge–as if they all each and every one were minute doors into another dimension. I could see the leaping greenly spirits of trees. It was as if there was an invisible light within them, and somehow it had to do with Mary and Mary’s month.
I don’t mind that May is Mary’s month and if somebody thinks it is all a little bit too pagan, then let them continue to suck their lemons. As C.S.Lewis observed, while there is something dark and violent and demonic about paganism, there is also something natural and free and innocent and joyous. Something that was captured in that innocent May Day celebration when I was growing up. The pagans loved the natural world and celebrated the innocence of life and love and all things ‘yes’. The problem was their paganism eventually drifted into the dark side and became demonic instead of daimonic. Eden was too precious and fragile to last.
The garden of Eden is what the world was meant to be–where all things were innocent and free, where man and woman existed in perfect harmony, where the world was not bloody in tooth and claw.
Jesus Christ the Second Adam came to restore the beauty and innocence of Eden, and his mother the Second Eve is rightly celebrated in this sweet month. It is as if Christ, on the cold dark Friday, obliterated the ancient curse in March or April so that his mother Mary might show us in her splendid month of May the fruits of redemption today and the foretaste of Eden restored in the world to come.
Go here for a piece I wrote celebrating the May Crowning when I was a school chaplain.
Go here for a collection of apologetics articles about the Virgin Mary.