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I compose and post these articles with only one desire in my heart: to praise God and to offer modest help on your spiritual journey.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Harvest

If it is true, what the Ecclesiastes claims that there is a time to laugh (Ecclesiastes 3:4), to rejoice then that is true at the time of harvest. Looking at the fields of golden wheat, of mature corn, at the sugary aromatic grapes of all varieties, in the shiny sun, and clear sky of the autumn, one experiences an extraordinary delight for the mind and for the heart. At the time of the harvest we used to start work at the crack of dawn and continue it until late in the night. It was hard labor but the farmers did it with much engagement and love because they were afraid that the rainy season would start and the harvest would go to waste. When I think about harvest time, one of those images, impossible to forget, comes to my mind. After so many years, I still see mom and dad standing with me in the middle of the storage looking at the sacks of wheat, at the barrels of new wine, at the jars of canned vegetables and fruit jams. My mom was standing there quietly like a saint with her hands joined on her chest like in a prayer. My father was looking at the bags of harvested goods and the still fermenting wine juice in the barrels with gleaming eyes. At some point he and mom exchanged looks and I saw in my father's eyes emerging two tears, undecided if they would remain in orbit of his eyes or trickle down his face. Touching one of the sacks, he turned to me and said with a voice coming from the utmost of his depths of his being: "this is life, son!". We children enjoyed this time consuming fresh fruits and wine juice, thinking of the day of the harvest. That was the day we reaped our financial reward for our hard work. It didn't matter that it was always short from the promised amount; we rejoiced just the same. On the day of the harvest, people were bringing to the church willow baskets containing fresh products. The women were bringing all sorts of pretzels dipped in honey, sprinkled with ground nuts, and all sorts of pastries, fresh fruit, and gallons of new wine. All these were put in front of the altar in thanksgiving to God. I don't think that the children in the church were paying too much attention to mass on that day, but rather smells of those delightful things to be consumed at the end of the service, captured all the attention. However, in each heart, regardless of age, there was a deep thought and feeling of thanksgiving to God for all his great gifts. After church, we all went to the fairgrounds where there were all over stands decorated with grape vines and corn husks and various cuisines were competing to offer to the buyers their best goods. Of course there was also a bar where the adults went and imbibed moonshine, wine, whiskey and all sorts of libations and bragged abundantly and proudly about their harvest. There was also an amusement park on that day with all sorts of rides, puppet shows, illusionists, and a fanfare played popular tunes. The place was swarming with people, all boisterous and cheerful. It was a day we remembered for the rest of the year. Although we did not know it explicitly, at harvest time we all had the feeling that life was "happening in all its plenitude". It was an event in which people affirmed their joy and attachment to life.

Israel had two main harvest celebrations both were religious as well as agricultural. Both involved offerings of freshly harvested products to God in thanksgiving. The first one is the feast of Tabernacles, it took place late between late September to mid-October (during the Hebrew calendar month of Tishri). People lived for seven days in shelters or "booths" to joyfully commemorate God's provision and protection over the people of Israel wandering for 40 years in the desert after their deliverance from Egypt. The second one was the Feast of Weeks it took place seven weeks beginning from the second day of Passover (Deuteronomy 16). The people of Israel celebrated with piety and joy the giving and receiving of the Torah which for them meant that God had established the tent of his presence (shekinah) in the midst of his people. Christians also celebrate a similar feast, that of Pentecost. It takes place seven weeks after resurrection Sunday and it signifies the harvest of the holy spirit by Christ through his pascal mystery, namely his death and resurrection. Fathers of the church say that Christ, through his pascal mystery has obtained for humanity the holy spirit they had lost through original sin in paradise. This feast is thought to have been predicted by Ezekiel and Jeremiah 31:33-34 "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the Lord. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the Lord. "For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.". In Ezekiel 11:19 the Lord says "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh".

There are many kinds of harvests in human life. It is a harvest when a student, after studying assiduously, brings home good grades. It is a harvest when a couple holds and contemplates in wonder a baby, fruit of their sincere love. It is harvest when parents bring home their paycheck after hard, exhausting work, thus being able to pay for the necessities of the family. It is harvest when a mother procures a good dinner for her family and they all sit down in enjoy a communion of food and soul. Even eternal life with God is in a sense a harvest. Of course, the grace of God is always primordial in the salvation of a person but as St. Augustine said, "God, who created you, without you, will not save you, without you". God treats the human being as his partner and subsequently he has to cooperate toward his salvation.

At the end of these thoughts, I nostalgically remember two sayings of my father "My son, whatever is good comes from God and by his grace from ourselves too, but definitely what is evil comes from the devil and ourselves as well". Secondly, "You reap what you sow". Harvest is always an event of gratitude toward God and others and of a joyful "yes" to life. Its various moments mark indelibly the rhythm of time in one's life.

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