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

White for the harvest - Work in the vineyard - Summer Feasts - First Fruits - The sun will not burn thee - Thorns and Thistles - Village customs - A glimpse of Paradise -


“White for the harvest...”

+ John 4:35

“By day the sun will not burn thee...”

+ LXX Ps.120(121):6

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EN: Summer
(in English, Engels, EN)

White for the  harvest

Reading the Gospel according to St. John, we may have wondered about this expression in John 4:35. But indeed, as the wheat ripens, the colour changes from green to yellowish. And gradually, especially in sunny climates, the ears become ever lighter in colour, till in the end the fields are indeed ‘white for the harvest’ - a sure sign that the wheat is ripe, and ready for the sickle.

Work in the vineyard

One of the few plants that thrive in such hot summers is the deeply rooted vine. Earlier in the year, around the time the leaves started sprouting, people have pruned the vines and cleared the ground of weeds. And now the fruit is visibly growing.

When well watered, the grapes will grow large and juicy, suitable for the table, as well as for a variety of wines. Of such grapes, even individual bunches may be carefully pruned. Where there is little water, the vines will grow more slowly, putting much of their strength in the little grapes, which can become very sweet: excellent for drying and storing as raisins, currants or sultanas -  as well as for a sweet communion wine.

Summer Feasts

Between the main harvests of grain and grapes, the two major Feasts of the Summer season transport us to the perpective of the world to come:

On the 6th of August (NB: if we follow the old reckoning, then in our present civil calendar this date falls on 19/8) the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord - reminding us of our calling to become, even ourselves, vessels of the Divine Light.

On the 15th of August (old reckoning: on 28/8) we celebrate the Dormition of the Mother of God (see below), preceded by a Fast of two weeks and special services of supplication - as the hot Summer can easily bring illness, and thus accentuates the temporary nature of our earthly existence …

First fruits

In the second half of August the vineyard is ready for harvest - towards Transfiguration, according to the old reckoning. Thus, traditionally the first fruits of the vine are blessed on this Feast. When celebrating according to the new calendar (13 days earlier), it can be difficult to find sufficient grapes ready to eat. For, of course, once blessed everybody wishes for a taste of the new harvest.

The high vines, which shade the patio’s of the houses (see above), will yield mainly eating grapes. The fruit of the low vines (on the right) will mostly go for wine. And the text of the blessing reminds us, that this also includes the wine for the Liturgy - thus tying together the fruit of the earth and our daily life with the new life of the Kingdom to come.

The sun will not  burn thee

“By day the sun will not burn thee…”
+ LXX Ps.120 (121):6

In temperate climates or in colder lands, it can be difficult to grasp the Biblical image of the burning sun, under which even a tiny bit of shade is a blessing - when only the middle of the night, and the early morning before sunrise, may bring a little relief from the heat.

In such countries, it is in winter and early spring, that people may rejoice in the sun. At the height of summer, the promise that “the sun will not fall on” us anymore (Rev.7:16), is a mighty promise indeed.

Thorns and thistles

In a temperate climate, thistles may evoke the image of a green field, in which the careful farmer goes round with a small tool, ‘pricking out’ the tiny plants before they grow too large to be grazed off by sheep or goats - and may start causing damage to any lifestock.

In Biblical areas, thistles may be beautiful - and even soft - when they are small. However, they can became quite high. And in the hot, dry summer they dry out, like all ‘herbs of the field’, and become like barbed wire: stiff, hard and with vicious thorns. Individual plants may still have some majestic beauty. But on rocky ground the ‘thorns and thistles’ can become an almost inpenetrable barrier, and choke all other growth …

Village customs

Till very recently, much of the eastern Mediterranean was still like centuries ago - people lived from the land, sharing their life with their fellow-villagers.

Once a priest’s family was given a large bag of potatoes in the middle of summer, way too much to eat, and impossible to store. So they decided to give half of it to the neighbours. Those, in turn, gave them half of an enormous watermelon. Again, unable to eat it all, they shared this with another neighbour - who handed them half of a bag of cherries… With such brotherly ways, all the villagers enjoyed a much richer table than anybody could have had on their own.

Seizoenen en tijden - times and seasons Summer EN
A glimpse of Paradise

In Athonite monasteries, August is, above all, the month of the Mother of God. In the Fast of the first two weeks we pray the Service of the ‘Paraclesis’, asking for her aid. And then follows the Feast of her ‘Falling Asleep’ - which they prolong to almost the end of the month (rather than just 1 week).

Tradition tells how, in a miraculous way, all the Apostles were able to come and bid her farewell before her departure. While Thomas, being late, beheld her already risen from the dead, and received the promise of her lasting support for all the faithful.

Her Dormition, like the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (29 Aug./11 Sep.) reminds us of our aim: to become worthy members of Christ’s Kingdom. But her presence does more: she shows us how a human child, even while yet here on earth, can become a vessel of God’s grace - such that all the ‘old man’ is made new, able to give even to others a glimpse of the new Paradise to come.

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