I cannot remember a September when the temperature and the other signals of nature seemed to so clearly signal the arrival of Fall as has happened over the days of September 21 and 22 of this year. It is as if a switch has been thrown clicking on crisper evenings, the deepening blue of the autumn sky, squirrels clamoring for acorns, and the first vestiges of leafy color.
Now, I will come clean by telling you that I have always been a person moved by the onset of Spring. Where I grew up Fall was the signal of a coming winter that was, by and large, grey and rainy with the temperature generally hovering around 34 degrees. The damp cut you like a knife. When I moved to the Chicago area for seminary there came an annual autumn trip to our rival seminary in the Wisconsin woods for a football game. Now, I grew up with the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in full Fall foliage, but never before these games had I walked knee-deep in brilliant yellow leaves the size of Frisbees. Plus, it got dark so much earlier in these more northern latitudes. It was a siren’s song, of course, because it meant that the dark grey of winter would onset in early November and it would not relent to a warming sun and clearing sky until late April or early May. I would be deprived of blue sky and green grass until long after the calendar and the planets proclaimed it Spring. Ah, it was, for me, one more lesson of “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.”
Despite these things, I was, and admit that I still am, charmed by that crispness and the earlier arrival each day of the vesper light (no thanks to daylight savings time). There is a sense of boundaries, not hard and harsh but persistent while being gentle. Schools return to session and that means to me there is a renewal of learning. Choirs return and that means there is a renewal of singing. People return and that harkens a renewal of community.
The late strains of Fall will bring the candle-glow of Advent. Winter gifts us with the Incarnation and the Epiphany and, despite its name ushers us the challenges of Lent. Easter breaks forth in all ways of the Resurrection and floods us with new life. Those tender pale greens and running waters of Spring deepen into the full bloom and expansive daylight of summers.
God tells time by the movement of planets and the ebb and flow of tides. Never is there the need for a “leap” to correct or insert, and you never have to roll the date on your wristwatch because of a twenty-eight or thirty day month. I love this rhythm. It is natural. It is liturgical. It is God’s time.
The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, *
and you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand *
and satisfy the needs of every living creature.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways *
and loving in all his works. Psalm 145:16-18
May you find God’s rhythm in your days, in your seasons, in your prayers, in your breath and in your life.
Grace and peace,