Autumn is now with us. Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness! It is good to feel the resonance of that phrase of Keats from his Ode to Autumn – I learnedit as a boy and, perhaps unfortunately, the poem stayed in my mind to return every year at this time.
Now, as we return home, it seems obvious how absurdly picturesque is Keats’ view of Autumn, especially for many of us who live in Wales – I look
forward to the seasonal mists of Radnorshire! I like to live in the clouds.
October is a pivotal month. We thank God for the season of growth with our continuing celebrations of Harvest. Then we rest in the month as the tone of the season deepens in colour and emotion, drawing our hearts toward the sombre atmosphere of November
that begins with the feasts of All Saints and All Souls at the beginning of the month; the entry into darkness before the exciting Advent of the Light of the World
Sadly, already the Christmas goods are in the supermarkets but let us be the ones to revel in the joy of the present moment and not pre-empt the end of the year. This year, the changing seasons have been more clearly delineated as it has been a warm and
comparatively dry Summer after the abundance of last year’s Autumn rainfall. We await Autumn’s offering this year and hope that she may be kind to us. Let us remember that Harvest symbolises the gathering in of all the summer sunshine that still we
may store in our hearts and barns to keep us fed and watered throughout the colder months in our northern climes of the world. The exotic array of produce that is now available in our shops all the year round has diminished the idea of seasonal foods.
How lucky we are. Many of us remember the change from old to new potatoes, truly summer fruits and, at this time of the year, the return of rabbit to the pot. Let us strive to hold the same potency of feeling in our gratitude to God as when, even earlier, the
lands and the lives of people depended on the success of their crops. There is something very profound in remembering that God made Man from the soil of the ground (Genesis 2:7) and so through this heritage of our birth we are all literally part of the earth. It
follows then that to cherish and nurture the land and her creatures is more than just accepting and honouring God’s gift for us; we are fulfilling our own destiny and living in a sacred way that also honours ourselves.
In ancient times the King of the people was always identified with the Land over which he ruled and, in this role, would always to be prepared to sacrifice himself for the well-being of the land and its people. This is echoed in Biblical terms through King David, who gives us the model of a King who is more than just a warrior and becomes God’s chosen
representative of the people from his humble first appearance in the scriptures as a shepherd boy. It is an enlightening thought to consider the role of the
Shepherd as a sacred vocation and it has been an enduring idea for thousands of years. 600 years before Jesus, the Prophet Ezekiel tell us that God sees
himself as a shepherd to his people:
As shepherd seek out their flocks when they are among the scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep and I will make them lie down says the Lord God. I will seek the lost and I will bring the strayed and I will bind up the injured and I will strengthen the weak.
So, if it is the nature of God to care intimately for the land and its people, then for us also it must be a truly natural and Godly task; the Creator and created living
in harmony. It follows then, that in this close relationship between God’s people and his world, giving thanks for the goodness of the earth may never be separated from giving thanks for all those people who make it possible to enjoy such an overwhelming choice of
nourishment from the fruits of the earth: The farmers and all involved in agriculture, the fishermen, the drivers, the people who work in factories and shops and those who support these people. The list is endless. Also, let us hold firmly in our prayers
those who do not receive their full share of the earth’s nourishment and pray always for those who covet too much at the expense of others. It is fitting in the Harvest season that we commemorate St Francis on the fourth of the month. Francis was always motivated by the joy of seeing God’s creation in all things. It is appropriate to share some words from his well-known Canticle of the Creatures:
Praised be you, my Lord, with all your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day and through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour;
and bears a likeness of you, Most High One.
Praised be You, my Lord,
through our Sister Mother Earth,
who sustains and governs us,
and who produces various fruits with
coloured flowers and herbs.
Praised be you, my Lord, through those
who give pardon for Your love,
and bear infirmity and tribulation.
Blessed are those who endure in peace
for by You, Most High, shall they be crowned.
For Francis, all was inseparable from God. The Father gave us his Son and entrusted His creation to us; all the insecurity of the human condition and our free will are God’s gifts to us. Let us, like Francis, hold the warmth of the sun’s goodness in our hearts throughout the winter months as we remember that it is the warmth of the Son’s goodness that lies at the heart of all creation.
May the abundance of God’s new life in Christ always fill your hearts.
All Blessings Father Paul