Yesterday in St Mary’s Church we celebrated the Harvest – meaningful and relevant because we are situated in a rural part of Solihull and some of our parishoners are farmers. In this global economy the production and movement of food across the world isan extraordinary feat of energy and skill.
We seem so removed from the sources of our food – and surely take so much of it forgranted? Bread, milk, potatoes, apples and cheese – all delight us with their taste and nourishment. Harvest is a time to give thanks to God for all that is given and resolve ourselves to share the richness of God’s creation for justice and the good of all and not the few.
Here is soem historical background to the long tradition of harvest:
Before the 16th century, harvest was the term usually used to refer to the Autumn season: in fact the word comes from old English hærfest, which meant Autumn (the German word Herbst has the same origin and still means Autumn). The word is a compound word (hær + fest) and its first part has Indo-European roots in *kerp meaning to gather, pluck, harvest. Compare it with the Latin verb carpere meaning to cut, divide, pluck (Carpe diem). So hærfest indicated originally the joyful celebration of finally being possible to gather the mature crops; it extended afterwards its meaning to the all period beginning with the harvest (autumn). Recall also the expression harvest moon which is recorded since 1706 and indicates the fullmoon within a fortnight of the autumnal equinox (21 of September). However, as more people gradually moved from working the land to living in towns (especially those who were literate), the word came to refer to the actual activity of reaping, rather than the time of year, and the terms Fall and Autumn began to replace it in the former sense.