NE WAY OF getting through the hated chore of scraping ice and snow off your car is to think of Saint Eulalia. She was an early Christian martyr from Spain. At the age of 12, the emperor Maximian tried to force her to worship false idols. Rather than submit, she spat in his face and kicked over the idols, cakes and incense. She was then stripped, torn with hooks, and burnt. According to tradition, a dove flew out of her mouth as she died, symbolic of her soul flying to heaven. God then commanded snow to fall in order to provide her with suitable raiment.
A painting by John William Waterhouse commemorates the moment just after her death. Her white skin still glows with a fading warmth against the white snow. Both Roman soldiers avert their gaze, but bystanders have fallen upon their knees in recognition of the saint. A young boy points out a white dove to us, the viewers.
Waterhouse was daring in his composition. The center of the painting is almost entirely empty. Or is it? I would argue that the focal point of this painting is the snow itself. The color of her robe cannot be accidental. Indeed, it immediately brings to mind the words from Isaias 1:18, “…if your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow.” Her heroic example can inspire us to act with a holy impudence whether we battle heresy or winter ennui.