” I bore with thee long weary days and nights, Through many pangs of heart, through many tears; I bore with thee, thy hardness, coldness, slights, For three and thirty years. Who else had dared for thee what I have dared? I plunged the depth most deep from bliss above; I not My flesh, I not My spirit spared: Give thou Me love for love. For thee I thirsted in the daily drouth, For thee I trembled in the nightly frost: Much sweeter thou than honey to My mouth: Why wilt thou still be lost? I bore thee on My shoulders and rejoiced: Men only marked upon My shoulders borne The branding cross; and shouted hungry-voiced, Or wagged their heads in scorn. Thee did nails grave upon My hands, thy name Did thorns for frontlets stamp between Mine eyes: I, Holy One, put on thy guilt and shame; I, God, Priest, Sacrifice. A thief upon My right hand and My left; Six hours alone, athirst, in misery: At length in death one smote My heart and cleft A hiding-place for thee. Nailed to the racking cross, than bed of down More dear, whereon to stretch Myself and sleep: So did I win a kingdom,—share my crown; A harvest,—come and reap. Christina Rossetti
Christina Rossetti’s reflection challenges her readers to look through Jesus’ eyes and heart, to acknowledge our betrayals and falling short, but to put ourselves in that cleft heart and share his crown, share his harvest.
On Hearing The Dies Irae Sung In The Sistine Chapel
Nay, Lord, not thus! white lilies in the spring, Sad olive-groves, or silver-breasted dove, Teach me more clearly of Thy life and love Than terrors of red flame and thundering. The hillside vines dear memories of Thee bring: A bird at evening flying to its nest Tells me of One who had no place of rest: I think it is of Thee the sparrows sing.
Come rather on some autumn afternoon, When red and brown are burnished on the leaves, And the fields echo to the gleaner’s song, Come when the splendid fulness of the moon Looks down upon the rows of golden sheaves, And reap Thy harvest: we have waited long.
from “Selected Poems of Oscar Wilde
On this day in 1900, Oscar Wilde died in Paris, an autumn death and apparently a peaceful one, accompanied by a priest and a friend. He had had his share of terrors and thundering, and was ready to be gathered in.
Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest. Matthew 9:37-38.
Let us pray that we might be ready to do for others whatever is asked of us today: perhaps sowing a seed rather than reaping a harvest, or even clearing brambles or nettles to make room for plants being choked of light. And let us trust God to have sent his angels to bring all sinners home.
Turn on the prudent ant thy heedful eyes,
Observe her labours, sluggard, and be wise:
No stern command, no monitory voice,
Prescribes her duties, or directs her choice;
Yet, timely provident, she hastes away,
To snatch the blessings of the plenteous day;
When fruitful summer loads the teeming plain,
She crops the harvest, and she stores the grain.
How long shall sloth usurp thy useless hours,
Unnerve thy vigour, and enchain thy pow'rs;
While artful shades thy downy couch inclose,
And soft solicitation courts repose?
Amidst the drowsy charms of dull delight,
Year chases year with unremitted flight,
Till want now following, fraudulent and slow,
Shall spring to seize thee like an ambush'd foe.
From "Volume 1 The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes", via Kindle.
This is one of those instances where we actually have to think when trying to live by Bible teaching. Panic buying, anyone?
After the parable of the rich farmer filling his new barns with grain up to the day before his death, Jesus goes on to say: Consider the ravens, for they sow not, neither do they reap, neither have they storehouse nor barn, and God feedeth them. How much are you more valuable than they? Luke 12:24.
We should be thinking of other people’s barns, empty because of climate change or conflict. There are Cafod and other Church and secular agencies that we can help fill them.
Vain wish ! Me fate compels to bear
The downward season's iron reign;
Compels to breathe polluted air,
And shiver on a blasted plain.
What bliss to life can autumn yield,
If glooms, and show'rs, and storms prevail,
And Ceres flies the naked field,
And flowers, and fruits, and Phoebus fail?
Oh! what remains, what lingers yet,
To cheer me in the dark'ning hour!
The grape remains! the friend of wit,
In love, and mirth, of mighty pow'r.
Haste—press the clusters, fill the bowl;
Apollo! shoot thy parting ray:
This gives the sunshine of the soul,
This god of health, and verse, and day.
Still—still the jocund strain shall flow,
The pulse with vig'rous rapture beat;
My Stella with new charms shall glow,
And ev'ry bliss in wine shall meet.
Ceres: Roman goddess of harvest.
Phoebus Appollo: Roman sun god.
(from Volume 1 The Works of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D., in Nine Volumes)
It is about now that the Beaujolais Nouveau wine is released, so ‘haste – press the clusters’ is about right. Johnson was also capable of admitting that too much of a good thing was possible. The pollution in London today is from gas and petrol rather than wood and coal fires, but just as real. Despite the pollution, Jonson was never tired of London.
Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise:
be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting;
and his truth endureth to all generations.
The psalms give us some of the most difficult prayers – Sister Johanna wrote about how to pray these vengeful psalms a while ago: her series begins here. This might be a good time to reread her wise words, so we will provide a link to each post every day for a week.
Sister also looks at the more benign Psalms, thanking God for creation; here is one of them. Short and sweet, easy enough to get by heart, especially in the hymnal version, ‘All People that on earth do dwell’.
If you cannot get to a Harvest Festival Thanksgiving this month, sit down to some local food – fruit or local bread, say – and thank God for the food he provides.
Gilbert White introduced the Natural History of Selborne (1789) with a selection of his verses, including this description of one family’s harvest time. Their field would have been much smaller than this expanse of barley, ready for the combine harvester, but barley it might well have been, grown for the breweries of London and nearby Alton. Every year, White would have seen the harvest gathered in by hand as he records here. By the sweat of their brow this couple took their part in God’s creation.
Waked by the gentle gleamings of the morn, Soon clad, the reaper, provident of want, Hies cheerful-hearted to the ripen’d field: Nor hastes alone: attendant by his side His faithful wife, sole partner of his cares, Bears on her breast the sleeping babe; behind, With steps unequal, trips her infant train; Thrice happy pair, in love and labour join’d !
All day they ply their task; with mutual chat, Beguiling each the sultry, tedious hours. Around them falls in rows the sever’d corn, Or the shocks rise in regular array.
But when high noon invites to short repast, Beneath the shade of sheltering thorn they sit, Divide the simple meal, and drain the cask: The swinging cradle lulls the whimpering babe Meantime; while growling round, if at the tread Of hasty passenger alarm’d, as of their store Protective, stalks the cur with bristling back, To guard the scanty scrip and russet frock.
September! We are moving into Autumn, fruit, grain harvest, swelling pumpkins … return to school, reluctant scholars yet glad to see their friends. remembering Oscar Wilde yesterday, here is the XVII Century English-speaking Welsh poet, Henry Vaughan, looking for the luxuries of out-of-season flowers and fruit. He’d find them today of course, rushed to us from around the world. But note his conclusion!
The tender vine in our garden suffered from the North’s cold wind last winter, but we have a few bunches of grapes swelling; are they to be food for humans or starlings?
Who the violet doth love,
Must seek her in the flow'ry grove,
But never when the North's cold wind
The russet fields with frost doth bind.
If in the spring-time—to no end—
The tender vine for grapes we bend,
We shall find none, for only—still—
Autumn doth the wine-press fill.
Thus for all things—in the world's prime—
The wise God seal'd their proper time.
Respect for the Planet’s Resources We pray that the planet’s resources will not be plundered, but shared in a just and respectful manner.
I typed in Pope Francis’s intention earlier in the year, little thinking how the world would have changed by September. It was noticeable how much cleaner the air was when there was far less traffic on the roads of Kent, and I expect you noticed something similar. Fresh air is one of the resources tat should be shared, not plundered for industry or personal travel.
But still, it’s September and we should be thinking of Harvest Festival and how
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above;
Then thank the Lord,
O thank the Lord,
For all his love.
And yet, it’s a bit rich to proclaim our thanks unless we take account of the sinfulness that clings to our fingers when we buy non-fair trade chocolate or coffee, or indeed absolutely any mobile phone, with all the rare earths that go into them, possibly mined under conditions of near slavery and lack of safety in the workplace. And where our brothers and sisters are exploited, the planet will be also.
White depended upon correspondence with other gentlemen researchers to further his researches – and theirs. He contributed to the identification of the harvest mouse as a separate species. ‘Nondescript’ here means not having its description recorded in a scientific publication. Two inches is about 5 cm.
I have procured some of the mice mentioned in my former letters, a young one and a female with young, both of which I have preserved in brandy. From the colour, shape, size, and manner of nesting, I make no doubt but that the species is nondescript. They are much smaller, and more slender, than the mus domesticus medius of Ray, and have more of the squirrel or dormouse colour; their belly is white, a straight line along their sides divides the shades of their back and belly. They never enter into houses; are carried into ricks and barns with the sheaves, abound in harvest; and build their nests amidst the straws of the corn above the ground, and sometimes in thistles. They breed as many as eight at a litter, in a little round nest composed of the blades of grass or wheat.
One of these nests I procured this autumn, most artificially platted, and composed of the blades of wheat, perfectly round, and about the size of a cricket ball, with the aperture so ingeniously closed, that there was no discovering to what part it belonged. It was so compact and well filled, that it would roll across the table without being discomposed, though it contained eight little mice that were naked and blind. As this nest was perfectly full, how could the dam come at her litter respectively, so as to administer a teat to each? Perhaps she opens different places for that purpose, adjusting them again when the business is over; but she could not possibly be contained herself in the ball with her young, which moreover would be daily increasing in bulk. This wonderful procreant cradle, an elegant instance of the efforts of instinct, was found in a wheat-field suspended in the head of a thistle.
As to the small mice, I have farther to remark, that though they hang their nests for breeding up amidst the straws of the standing corn, above the ground, yet I find that, in the winter, they burrow deep in the earth, and make warm beds of grass: but their grand rendezvous seems to be in corn-ricks, into which they are carried at harvest. A neighbour housed an oat-rick lately, under the thatch of which were assembled nearly a hundred, most of which were taken, and some I saw. I measured them, and found that, from nose to tail, they were just two inches and a quarter, and their tails just two inches long. Two of them, in a scale, weighed down just one copper halfpenny, which is about the third of an ounce avoirdupois: so that I suppose they are the smallest quadrupeds in this island. A full-grown Mus medius domesticus weighs, I find, one ounce lumping weight, which is more than six times as much as the mouse above; and measures from nose to rump four inches and a quarter, and the same in its tail.
Zwergmaus (Micromys minutus), fotografiert 9/2005 von Hendrik Osadnik
We have read how Samuel Johnson encouraged friends to make detailed personal observation, scientific enquiry in other words. No-one appears to have found this activity anti-Christian or against Bible teaching. Gilbert White of Selborne, Hampshire, was an Anglican curate who observed the Natural History of his parish and shared his discoveries with friends in letters that became his book, The Natural History of Selborne. WE celebrate his tercentenary this summer. Our first selection comes from letters to Thomas Pennant, himself an associate of Johnson.
England, in the second half of the eighteenth century was much more rigidly divided by class than today. Many countrymen, out of doors in all weathers, and not unobservant, were illiterate and unschooled, so were unable to contribute as much to the growth of knowledge than if they had received an education. However some parishioners did help White by bringing specimens or telling their curate about a sight worthy of his attention.
LETTERS TO THOMAS PENNANT, ESQUIRE. V
The village of Selborne, and large hamlet of Oakhanger, with the single farms, and many scattered houses along the verge of the forest, contain upwards of six hundred and seventy inhabitants.
We abound with poor, many of whom are sober and industrious, and live comfortably in good stone or brick cottages, which are glazed, and have chambers above stairs; mud buildings we have none. Besides the employment from husbandry, the men work in hop-gardens, of which we have many, and fell and bark timber. In the spring and summer the women weed the corn, and enjoy a second harvest in September by hop-picking. Formerly, in the dead months they availed themselves greatly by spinning wool, for making of barragons, a genteel corded stuff, much in vogue at that time for summer wear, and chiefly manufactured at Alton, a neighbouring town, by some of the people called Quakers; but from circumstances this trade is at an end. The inhabitants enjoy a good share of health and longevity; and the parish swarms with children.
Notice that the villagers live in good stone or brick cottages, and that White feels the need to remark upon the fact. The field above is sown with maize using a seed drill, invented by Jethro Tull. It made hoeing the crop easier and less wasteful, but imagine hoeing that field all day!