God of the Harvest
I do hope readers have managed to enjoy celebrating a Harvest Festival. The chances are that many haven’t. Even in rural parishes, Harvest is ‘not what it was’. I notice that in place of Harvest, some parishes now keep ‘Creation Sunday’ sometime in September or October. Being a traditionalist in every aspect of life, I will continue to celebrate the Harvest! Harvest is about food on the table; in a sense every time grace is prayed and a blessing made at a meal, it is a Harvest Festival. COP26 and the very correct emphasis on the Climate Emergency involve huge issues of the human stewardship of creation and these connect with politics and economics in a global context. It will help our prayers for all this to give proper attention to the food on our plate.
Creation is so ordered that humanity feeds at the end of food chains: eating binds us to creation and to one another. It is not a coincidence that one of the Dominical Sacraments involves the ‘fruit of the earth’ and the ‘fruit of the vine’; God feeds us both in body and soul. In this era of fast food and food on the move, processed food, of ready meals, the microwave and the take away, as well as considering their implications on our physical health we should consider the damage they might be causing to our soul.
Being prayerful in our preparation and consumption of food is an essential element of a spiritual life. Being prayerful in this way: reflecting on the origin of the elements of our meal, being aware of the glorious intricacy of a tomato, or a runner bean, the colour of an apple, or the wonder that is bread enables every meal time to be Eucharistic. Giving a thought to those who work the land, or fish in the waters of the North Atlantic, the care and devotion of farmers in raising livestock; enriches and informs our prayer for the world and a thankfulness for others.
All this is a far cry for some expressions of ‘creation spirituality’. We must guard against any romantic notions of the goodness of creation. Creation is fallen and the consequence of this is that humanity eats bread because of the ‘sweat of the brow’. The earth is full of thorns and snakes of many kinds to test the resolve and skill of humanity (Genesis 3). Humanity is not in a dance with creation but a wrestling match. As things stand, creation is about to deliver a knock-out blow.
Harvest Thanksgiving recognises the precariousness of the provision of food. Used as we are to cheap and plentiful food, and thinking that not being able to buy strawberries in January is a disaster, Harvest provides a reality check. We need to be prayerful in the world as it is, not as we would like it to be. Every shopping trip, every recipe, every action in preparing and eating a meal is a cause for prayer; thanksgiving certainly, but also intercession and sometimes contemplation of the truth that the Lord ‘opens wide his hand, and fills all things living with his bounteous gifts.’