The days begin to shorten, the shadows lengthen, the harvest is at hand. Autumn with all of her natural beauty visits and a certain sweet pensiveness sweeps over the soul. Bright colors of leaves and foliage announce the passage of another season, another year. Nature in Her riotous beauty gives one last shout before the quiet and stillness to come.
We in the Western Church speak of Advent as the beginning of the cycle of the Church year but did you know that our brothers and sisters of the Eastern Orthodox Church view September as the beginning of the Church year? The tradition of computing the start of a New Year with autumn was common to the lands of the Bible and to all the lands around the Mediterranean. The summer harvest was at an end, the crops were stored, and people prepared for a new agricultural cycle. It was an appropriate time to begin a New Year.
We have just passed the Festival of Michaelmas that comes close to the Autumnal Equinox. This is the time when the Earth faces the Sun squarely and full on. The year moves towards its culmination and yet ending implies beginning, closure points toward an opening, termination insinuates and contains within itself the commencement of all that is new. From the harvest come the seeds for a fresh planting.
From a deeply mystical tradition the idea comes that at this time of the year St. Michael the Archangel goes before the very Throne of the Divine and the Plan for the coming year is given which is brought back to this Earth to be born at Christmas.
The feast day of St. Michael and All Angels is the most ancient of all the angel festivals. From fairly early on, Michaelmas was an important holiday, the religious or Christian equivalent of the autumn equinox. In England, it was considered the start of a new quarter. It marked the start of a new business year, a time for electing officials, making contracts, paying rent, hiring servants, holding court and starting school.
With the onset of this season we can take some time to reflect, take time to review, take time to evaluate. Let us look at the harvests in our lives and celebrate the good, the rich and the bountiful. Let each one share from the rich storehouse the abundant treasure that is found. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good. Luke 6:44 What treasures of love and kindness, generosity, peace, tolerance, and patience can we celebrate and bring to this World?
Likewise, let us take this time, as the year comes to a close, to rid ourselves of those things which hinder us, old worn out habits and thought patterns which keep us from realizing our full potential as children of the Most High. Whatever lends toward a sense of separateness needs to be "plowed under" to become just so much fertilizer with which to grow a better harvest in the future.
Even as the solar year moves to its conclusion, our attention is drawn away from the outer life of activity in the sunshine to the interior life within. We draw close to hearth and home and we develop a nearness to the unseen worlds of spirit. Even in pre-Christian religions this particular time of year was recognized to be a time when the veil between the seen and the unseen is thinnest. We are about to celebrate All Souls Day, which festival was borrowed from the pagans christened anew by the church in Her wisdom. It is a time to turn from the outer and renew our awareness of the inner. It is a time to see that light comes forth from darkness, that endings are really beginnings, that even death is a gateway to Life and rebirth.
Let us recognize that the seeds of this years harvest are
germinating in the darkness soon to burst forth in the Light of a New
Beginning. The seed planted and the seed growing and the seed we
that which is given to us by Our Lord of Love. In the New Living
Translation of 1 John 2:7-9 we read Dear friends, I am not writing a
new commandment, for it is an old one you have always had, right from the
beginning. This commandment to love one another is the same message you
heard before. Yet it is also new. This commandment is true in Christ and
is true among you, because the darkness is disappearing and the true
light is already shining.
The Right Reverend William S.H. Downey
Regionary Bishop for the USA
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