TIMES AND SEASONS - photographs and notes on Autumn (EN) -

End & beginning - On the Day of Atonement - A copy of the Law +PDF - The Elevation of the Cross - With fragrant herbs - Drying fruit - In a dry climate - A second flowering - Golden leaves -

Quote (+PDF):

And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

+ Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (KJV)

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EN: Autumn
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End & Beginning

In Old Testament times, the Hebrew people counted the months from spring, but the years were counted from the beginning of autumn. Likewise, in the Roman empire under St. Constantine the Great the new tax year started in autumn, i.e. at the end of the major harvests.

Hence, the start of the liturgical year is a time of ‘making up the accounts’. But the end also includes a new beginning: The wine harvest is over and soon we may taste the new wine. Likewise, at the end of the first solemn days, the Hebrew people celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles, rejoicing in the remembrance of God’s blessings.

Seizoenen en tijden - times and seasons Autumn EN
On the Day of Atonement

In the context of the Old Testament, the first day of the New Year was the Day of Atonement: a day of reckoning on account of the Law of God, when the people of Israel would mourn for their sins and beg forgiveness, through the intercession of the High Priest.

One of the marks of this day was the blowing of the ‘shofar’ - a kind of trumpet made of a ram’s horn. Trumpets of this kind are also mentioned in the Book of Revelation, reminding us of the final reckoning at the end of time.

The years of the kings of the people of Israel - starting with the year of their enthronement - were also counted from autumn. For the king, personally, it must have been quite impressive to start every new year of his reign with the remembrance of God’s judgment.

In order that his reign would be well-pleasing to God, a commandment in Deuteronomy (see above) made sure that he himself would be intimately acquainted with the Law: By reading in it every day - and that in a copy which he had written out himself, with his own hand! (note: Some modern translations imply that the actual writing was done by others, but that seems rather a matter of interpretation)

By the way, this is a wonderful way for anyone to become familiar with the Scriptures - even if we only write out the parts that touch us most. But this word from the Law of Moses also reminds us of the aim of such an exercise: to acquire a godly fear of the Lord, to keep His words in order to do them, to remain humble among our brethren, and not to turn away from the commandment of God.

For a printable copy of the above (in different colours), see PDF

The Elevation of  the Cross

One of the major Feasts of the Church, shortly after the beginning of the New Year, is the Elevation of the Cross. Like the ancient Day of Atonement, it is a solemn Feast (even a fasting day, though on Saturdays and Sundays we may use ‘wine and oil’).

But, solemn as this Feast may be, it remains an occasion for joy. For ‘through the Cross, joy has come into all the world’,* on the Day of the Resurrection!

* cf. Sunday Matins, hymn after Psalm 50(51)

With fragrant herbs

In many places in the Orthodox world, it is customary to decorate the Cross - i.e. for its Feasts - with fragrant herbs, like basil or rosemary (depending on the available plants in the area).

Thus, as we look upon the life-giving Cross, and the whole world receives it’s blessing, we are reminded of the fragrance of the Tree of Life and the promise of its healing power, as a new beginning at the end of all things (Rev.22:2).

Drying fruit

Autumn around the Mediterranean is still a very sunny period, and a good time to dry part of the plentiful harvest of fruit. This starts in early summer with the apricots, now it is time for plums, raisins etc. Special sweets, made with fruit juices (thickened with flour) or fruit puree (reduced till sufficiently thick), can also be dried.

The leathery sweets can then be stored, to make a wonderful welcome for guests on fasting days, or a tasty treat for the (grand)-children. But… they are very more-ish. Therefore, a certain grandmother used to hide them in a crock in the wardrobe, to make sure they would not be eaten before the time…

In a dry climate

The dry climate of most of the Biblical lands is part of the background of Holy Scripture.

Especially the summer may be without any rain at all. Weeds that have sprung up among the stones, soon wither. And by the end of summer most of the ‘herbs of the field’ are also dry and yellow.

Thus, when the Psalms refer to the grass or herbs that soon wither, this turns out to be a strong image indeed.

For nothing will survive the summer heat, unless it is deeply rooted. Or generously watered (maybe even twice a day) by a diligent gardener. Or it grows right next to a source of living water, which never dries up…

A second flowering

In such a climate, with the coming of the first rains after the hot and dry summer, nature revives: Suddenly, everywhere green herbs appear, and some bushes even flower for the second time in that same year.

Thus, autumn gets a double character:

On the one hand the end and the reckoning (see above), and the falling of the leaves, as some trees prepare for winter.

On the other hand the promise of this ‘second spring’, which shows the fertility of the earth - and its readiness for the seed of next year’s early harvest.

Golden leaves

In colder areas, autumn is often known for the colouring of the leaves - red and golden - sometimes quite a while before they fall and leave the trees bare all during winter.

Here, nature seems to accentuate mostly the time of the end. Although a careful observer may see new promises even here, in the half-hidden buds of some trees and bushes.

Thus, even if the climate in which we live, does not show us exactly the Biblical imagery of the dry summer and the second flowering (see above), it still proclaims the same wisdom concerning the end and the new beginning …

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