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A reflection by Fr. Bruce – Assumption, 15 August, 2020

Some years ago I went to North-East Romania in the middle of August. On the bus that took my friends and me there we noticed several men holding scythes. The blades had been removed for safety from their shafts and tied alongside them. We read this as a sign that they had been reaping the harvest nearby. The next day was August15 and we, with hundreds of others, attended an outdoor Mass for the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption. In the congregation I noticed several of the men we had seen on the bus, now smartly dressed. Returning to the village where we were staying, we found that a wedding was in progress. We were told that weddings were forbidden in the weeks leading up to August 15 because all able hands were needed to bring in the harvest. Our Lady’s Assumption was kept as a festival of the completion of the harvest, and was clearly an important moment in the yearly cycle.
This reminded us that Our Lord died and rose at the time of Passover, the feast of the beginning of the harvest in Israel, and that the Holy Spirit was manifested seven weeks later at Pentecost, the feast of the harvest’s completion. The ritual of both feasts involved bringing an offering of newly-harvested grain to the Temple to be offered to God. This led Saint Paul to see a connection between the Resurrection and the harvest, and to write ‘Christ has risen from the dead, the first-fruits of those who had fallen asleep (1 Cor 15,20)’.
Because of the difference in climate, grain is reaped later in Europe than in the Holy Land, so that for most of us, Easter has lost its connection with the harvest. But the Feast of Our Lady’s Assumption is a different matter. An English poem of the Middle Ages speaks of August as the season ‘when corn is cut with sickles keen’ and I remember as a child being driven to Cornwall for our holiday between field upon field of golden crops. We are in harvest time.
Our Lord in many of his parables spoke of the end of our life as a time of harvest. Wheat, barley and other crops are sown in order to be reaped, and the same is true of ourselves: our life on earth is a preparation for a fuller life with God. On the Solemnity of Our Lady’s Assumption we may think of her as being gathered by her Son to share, body and soul, in his eternal life, and pray that we may have a share in that destiny. This year, we will also wish to pray for the many who have recently died. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’ (John 12,24)