I feel deeply re-connected to the past when we celebrate Harvest. We are doing what people have done for generations, back to George Herbert’s time, back before that - even 3000 years ago to Israel and elsewhere.
All over the world, and for nearly all of time, in different cultures, and to different Gods, people have given thanks for the provision of food for another season, to keep them alive. Seven years before Herbert’s birth there had been such a famine in England that the Poor Law was set up in response. And during Herbert’s day much of Europe suffered famines caused by the 30 years war. We live in what is being called a unique time - as (in the developed world) we do not fear famine or war or pestilence and live in an unprecedented time of plenty and peace. (This seems surprising given the media telling us otherwise, but think bigger and you will see it is true.) You might think that sufficiency would mean Harvest loses its meaning - yet now we know how fragile our planet is, and how we need to care for it and be good stewards. So the festival endures!
I was thinking about the movement of time - we want it to move fast when we’re young, or when we’re poorly, or waiting, yet go slow when we’re enjoying good company, or a nice view, or when all’s right with the world. We can measure it and mark it, and know its going at a regular pace, and yet.. it truly does feel faster or slower in our experience and perception. What should I find, but Mr H also pondered these things! In his poem 'Time', time is an executioner, more like the medieval figure of Death. Herbert echoes St.Paul’s dilemma about wanting to be in heaven, yet also be on earth. The last lines are particularly poignant, knowing that he knew his life was limited, and speak of Herbert wanting more time on earth, not less. For many of us, it is only when we are faced with that final curtain that we see the joy and richness of life, the beauty of things around, or the urgency to finish our work.
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