Tag Archives: harvest

September 21: Up the Apricot Tree: II

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Back in July, I wrote about the bumper harvest on the apricot tree. over the next four weeks I was up that tree a few times, harvesting and pruning. We made more than 100 jars of jam. That’s not really a boast, just a measure of the bounty from our tree this year.

Some of those jars have found their way to other people’s breakfast tables. We’ve had appreciation from family and neighbours, ‘best ever’, ‘lovely jam’ and so on. Those of us who have undergone the after-effects of surgery will empathise with the friend of Mrs T, recovering from her op who really enjoyed the jam with her breakfast toast. So good to receive the sense of taste again! What a gift it is, and how healing.

Where else can we spread a little apricot-flavoured happiness, I wonder?

Are there any people out there who might treasure a small gift from you, far more than perhaps you’d expect on first thoughts?

 

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July 14: Up the Apricot tree

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Suddenly it was time to harvest the apricots, and a bumper crop on our tree this year, branches laden, bending under the weight. Up in the tree is a good place to be, close to the sun-reflecting fruit.

There was plenty to store and plenty to share as jam or ice cream.

Good news, yes, but is it all good news?

As I downloaded this photo from the camera I saw that the one Mrs T took three years ago was taken three weeks later in the month. This year we had blackberries before the end of June.

Even a friend living in a nearby village has seen very few swallows or martins, though numbers of sparrows and starlings seem greater than recent years.

And now the city council propose an ugly new multi-storey car park near the centre of town but also next to a pollution blackspot.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

Proverbs 29:18

This surely refers to knowingly keeping God’s law, rather than blindly following those devised by human law-makers, who may not be supremely wise and well-meaning.

To say or sing Laudato Si’ sounds almost ironic at times, but we must live in hope and not allow ourselves to be cynical. We can start by sharing the apricots and leaving the car at home when we could walk.

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Saturday 25th June: Mercy: fruit of brokenness

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Mercymercylogo is the fruit of brokenness in our lives. Fruit comes out of broken ground. Jesus’ body was completely broken on the Cross and when his heart was pierced there sprung the fountain of divine mercy. Mercy is the fruit of emptying oneself. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies then it yields a mighty harvest (Jn. 12:24). In our life too we need to acknowledge our brokenness, weakness, vulnerability and nothingness before God.  This awareness creates in our heart a desire to die to oneself and opens our inner eye to see the brokenness of others.  Mercy is a free gift from God. Jesus said: ‘Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).

In the Beatitudes Jesus says ‘Blessed are those who are merciful, they will receive mercy’ (Matthew 5:7).  To receive the gift of mercy requires surrendering of our brokenness to God. This gift will help us to accept others as they are, without judgement. In this way, we become instruments of God’s compassion and mercy.

So, let us place our weaknesses, struggles and vulnerabilities under the blessing of God’s mercy, who tells us: ‘you are very good’ (Genesis 1:31) and ‘you are my beloved son/daughter. On you my favour rests’ (Mark 3:17), and let us say with the psalmist ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being’ (Psalm 139). Then our brokenness becomes a blessing for us and for others.  We are blessings to each other when we remember that God’s favour rests on each one of us.

 

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Interruption: a Pentecost homily

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Ascension and Pentecost CD.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We celebrate today the feast of Pentecost which is also the birthday of our mother, the Church. Mothers enjoy giving gifts than rather just receiving them. Actually, the only gift which they really enjoy, according to my own experience (and I guess this is universally valid), is the presence of their children. So, here we are: to please Her with our presence and let Her make us happy with Her teaching.

 

I don’t know how you find today’s readings, but the atmosphere described by the Acts of the Apostles (2: 1–11) is very familiar to me. This familiarity is not due to the fact that I’ve studied the New Testament, nor it is because I know Jerusalem, for I’ve never been there, but simply because I’m living in Canterbury. The author of the reading says that there were “devout Jews from every nation under heaven”, and he mentions 16 different nationalities. To be honest, I don’t think that we have in Canterbury people from “every nation under the earth”, but I’m quite sure that we have representatives from more than 16 countries. Right now in our chapel, I know people from at least 11 different nationalities; and then if we take into account those who will attend the next Mass, this total number of people is increased. This parallel makes me see a certain similarity between what was going on in Jerusalem, nearly 2000 years ago, and what is happening here right now in our own city, but, of course, that’s not the point. So, we should explore a little more.

 

By the way, why were those people in Jerusalem? The author tries to give us a clue, by telling us they were “devout Jews”, but he refuses to give an exhaustive answer to our question. Anyway, being told that they were devout, it is not difficult to presume that some were there to fulfil a religious obligation, because Pentecost was the second of the three great Jewish Feasts; others were there to celebrate the completion of the harvest and to thank God for it, or just to pray, to ask for help from God; some, perhaps, were there for business reasons or out of curiosity, or ambition. Anyway, whatever their motives might have been, one thing is certain: they all were driven by the powerful, though invisible, engine which can generate both positive and rewarding feelings, or negative and unsatisfactory feelings, named by us as “desire”. Saint Paul though, in today’s second reading, says that every person can be led either by a spirit of slavery or by the Spirit of God (Romans 8: 8–17). This is wonderful.  It means that everybody is free to follow one of two guides.

 

A good example would be to look at our seraphic Father, St. Francis. We know that his life was abundantly animated by this energy, which we call desire. Since childhood he sought to develop the desire for human glory, which was seen by him as the only way to happiness. His ambition and the economic possibilities he received from his father nourished his humanity and directed him towards that end, but instead of finding happiness, he experienced a terrible disappointment, which led him to rethink. Once he identified and experienced the right desire, which led him to taste real happiness, he never ceased to recommend it to his friars; he writes: “that above all, they should wish to have the Spirit of the Lord working within them” (Later Rule X, 8)

 

You may ask, what does all of this have to do with us today?  We are baptized and confirmed and have the Holy Spirit of God dwelling within us. We are totally immersed in the life giving Spirit of the Resurrected Jesus.  What does this entail?  St. Paul gives us a comprehensive explanation.  In his first letter to the Corinthians, he speaks about the variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. In chapter twelve, he says that the Holy Spirit gives us wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord.  Indeed that makes us powerful people. However St Paul also insists that all these gifts are for the benefit of helping others, for building the community of the church.

 

I hope that you don’t mind if I refer to St. Francis of Assisi again. We all know that he was asked by Christ to rebuild His church, a mission which he, actually, carried out by making use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Towards the end of his life, he wanted to share the secret of his success with the generations which would follow him, so he wrote it down in his Testament: “no one showed me what I should do, but the Most High Himself revealed to me that I should live according to the form of the Holy Gospel” (Testament 14).

 

Dear brothers and sisters, I guess, we all know what it means to be faced with a challenging situation, I mean to have to make important decisions for our own life or for the lives of our beloved ones. Where do we look for advice? Saint Francis, wanting to help the beginner on their spiritual journey, used to say: “If they ask advice, the ministers may refer them to some God-fearing brothers” (Later Rule II, 8). Counsel and fear of the Lord are gifts of the Holy Spirit and Jesus gave us this guarantee concerning these gifts: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (John 2:26).

 

Now, unlike the devout Jews from Jerusalem, we have not been gathered here by any strange sounds of wind blowing, but I strongly believe that we have been driven here by the same Spirit. We are in this chapel not just to fulfil a religious obligation, but out of love for Him, the third person of the Blessed Trinity, Who is eager to make a new dwelling within us.

 

Fr. Stefan Acatrinei

 

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24 March: Bread and the Word.

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Christ himself told us that he is “the bread of life”, and scripture attests he is the Word who was with God, and who was God. 

These two claims that are the basis of our faith are statements woven throughout scripture and our theological beliefs.  They echo from Advent, when God’s salvation plan for His people is foretold by the prophets with the promise that the Messiah would come from the City of David, and continue through the earthly ministry of Christ from his birth, death, and resurrection.

Christ’s existence as the bread of life and the Word come together, in identical words, twice in scripture.  First in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy (8:3) : “…man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord”, which the Evangelists Matthew (4:4) and Luke (4:4) both tell us Jesus quotes, verbatim, to his tempter after 40 days of fasting in the Judean wilderness.

More significantly, the two synonymic terms for Christ come together in the Holy Eucharist.  In the Blessed Sacrament, proclaimed by Blessed Pope Paul VI and the Council Fathers in Lumen Gentium 11 as “the source and summit of our faith” where through the mystery of transubstantiation, bread becomes the body of Christ, and the faithful receive the Word as this life giving bread.

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Indeed, prophecy was fulfilled with the birth of Christ in the City of David.  Even more amazingly, the Hebrew name of that town where Jesus was born, bêt-leḥem, means House of Bread!

DW.

The Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge. Note at the feet of Christ the host and chalice of the Eucharist. There are many scripture references in this portrayal, even though it does not show a ‘realistic’ crucifixion in earthly terms. This could be a meditation on Hebrews: notice the pallium on the Lord’s shoulders: a sign that he is the Lamb as well as the Good Shepherd; he is also priest and King … look on, and see more.

A different festive bread to that of Passover, the traditional English harvest loaf expresses thanks for the crops safely gathered in, and the offering of ourselves and all that sustains us in God’s earth. 

MMB.

 

 

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Tuesday January 5th – Evagrius of Pontus

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Today, the Eve of the Epiphany, is the anniversary of a protégé of the Cappadocians, the desert monk and spiritual writer Evagrius of Pontus (345-399). Evagrius pays tribute to Gregory in the prayer with which he concludes his handbook, the Praktikos: ‘This is what we have discovered by the grace of the Holy Spirit in our gleaning through the harvest of ripening grapes. But when the high Sun of Justice shines upon us and the grape is ripened, then will we drink its wine which ‘gladdens the human heart’, thanks to the prayers and intercessions of Gregory the just who planted me, and of the holy fathers who now water me and by the power of Christ Jesus our Lord who has granted me growth. To him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

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Of Times and Seasons

squashesWith the change in the hour we got talking of times and seasons, now winter is almost upon us. And that means the Church’s Season of Advent and then Christmas, surviving under the onslaught of Belshazzar’s ‘God of Gold’ (Daniel 5:4).

There are those who claim to be Christian who also refuse to celebrate this season or any other except Holy Week and Easter, most notably Jehovah’s Witnesses.  They assert authority from Scripture, but in the Old Testament it is the wicked who want to abolish the feasts of the Lord (Psalm 73:8). Or in England, Oliver Cromwell, all head and no heart.

After all, there could be no Easter without Christmas, no Christmas without Mary’s acceptance of Gabriel’s Message (Luke 1:38).

 It is good to give praise to the Lord: and to sing to thy name, O most High.

To shew forth thy mercy in the morning, and thy truth in the night. (Psalm 92: 2-3).

And if the pagans, even the modern pagans, give thanks for the Harvest, surely we should not be backward in acknowledging that all is given to us, not forced from our Creator by the power of our prayers and good deeds.

Pumpkins by Janet Billingsley.

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Those Autumn Leaves

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My schoolteacher daughter came for a walk in the woods near the Franciscans, gathering leaves and nuts and berries for her four to five year olds’ nature table. ‘I need plenty of acorns because they’ll get lost – into pockets.’ Chestnuts and conkers will surely disappear from the table too, but coloured leaves, once pressed and dried, will be stuck on the windows and can be admired and drawn and painted.

The day before we’d walked in the woods with baby Isaac, who at four months is still fascinated by the trees and the light filtering through the leaves.

For Isaac everything is new; and some of the older children may be looking closely at these jewels for the first time. And if we peer deeply into a jewel, what might we see?

And our eyes at last shall see Him,

said the didactic Mrs Alexander (Once in Royal David’s City), but if our eyes are opened, we can see him now; as the Psalmist says:

Thine is the day, and thine is the night: thou hast made the morning light and the sun.Thou hast made all the borders of the earth: the summer and the spring were formed by thee. (73:16-17)

Open your eyes!

Autumn along the railway bank path by Eleanor Billingsley

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Foraging and Pharisees

When we harvest chestnuts we roll the spiky husks underfoot. There is a just little work to be done to gather the harvest.

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Once when Jesus was walking through the fields his disciples plucked a few ears of corn, and rubbed them in their hands to eat the grain. They were young and no doubt hungry; a little work had to be done to gather their harvest.

And some of the Pharisees said to them: Why do you that which is not lawful on the Sabbath days?

And Jesus answering them, said: Have you not read so much as this, what David did, when himself was hungry, and they that were with him: How he went into the house of God, and took and ate the bread of proposition, and gave to them that were with him, which is not lawful to eat but only for the priests? And he said to them: The Son of Man is Lord also of the Sabbath. Luke 6:2-5.

David’s men were young and hungry as well.

The principle of Sabbath rest is one we risk losing sight of with our 24/7 world, so I sympathise with the Pharisees, but here they seem more concerned with the letter of the law than its spirit. Strangely enough, Killer, the primary school teacher who condemned them most vehemently was a dragon when it came to keeping rules – and the Sabbath in particular!

Harvest Loaf, Franciscan International Study Centre,2014

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Showered with Gifts

After a meeting at the Franciscan International Study Centre, I detoured past the chestnut trees on my ride home. A neighbour and his dog chestnuts (640x606)were already foraging, and he was happy to leave her with me and climb up to shake the tree. A great many more nuts cascaded down.

We went home well-laden with totally unearned gifts.

Once Zaccheus climbed a tree and came down to a totally unearned gift – the visit of the Good Lord to his home:

But Zacheus standing, said to the Lord: Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have wronged any man of any thing, I restore him fourfold.

Jesus said to him: This day is salvation come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.    Luke 19:8-10

At least some of my foragings will feed the welcome guests at Christmas, but I found an unexpected challenge in chestnuts: who is my neighbour? Whose house am I to bring salvation to?

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