Yesterday, on BBC2, there was a documentary about this year’s Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. In it, one could follow few artist’s preparation, the excitement of their going through the selection process. It was very emotional, and equally challenging for all of them. This is the dream of life for an artist, established or unknown. Out of eighteen thousand works, a thousand was selected, of which the selection committee choose the best five hundred. A friend of our parish, Garry exhibited his late father’s work. We, his friends, followed his dedication to the cause, and his final success.
Both, the way the artists brought their life-time effort to fruition, and the moving story of Garry’s father, is highly expressive of how and what we celebrate at Harvest Festival. Which feast, this year, is combined with the ‘harvest of our parish’, the feast of its Dedication, the 93rd year anniversary of its existence.
When we bring the fruits of the summer it is about far more than beautifully decorating our church. Every year, these fruits also represent us. Their colour and taste is an expression of our efforts to become better persons year by year.
Dedication, sheds a further light on today’s thanksgiving. Harvest is about the encounter between God, the Creator, and us, his creatures. Let us imagine Him, as he is indeed, our powerful King. Kings have many places in their palaces. It is their custom, that in order not to overwhelm their subjects and courtiers with their majesty, they withdraw to their inner chambers. During the year, leading up to ‘harvest time’, kind of this is the case. God’s glory is not that obvious; he hides himself, as it were, while we work. However, there are special moments, when the King chooses to be revealed. This happens among us on Sundays. He vests himself in the words of our liturgy, in the words of our prayers. Today, on the Feast of Dedication, we are expressly called to ‘look at his Church’, which he chooses to reveal his Glory. In the Eucharist, in the Holy Communion, the King summons us and shows himself to our senses. When he blesses our Harvest, he also calls for our full attention and thanksgiving.
So, harvest festival is a bit like realising where we are, in whose palace, in whose chamber of throne we are. Today we understand, that the great King, in the person of Our Lord, in his words, speaks to us. Face to face, directly to us, individually and as a community. In these moments, in the presence of the king, when he is talking to us, it would be an unimaginable offense to turn to our neighbour or friend, and start a private conversation. Harvest festival and Dedication are great reminders of the nature of our worship, how special it is to come to church and worship our God. What a privilege it is.
And just as in the case of the exhibiting artists at the RA, or in our own case when we bring our own life efforts before our Lord, God also brings to us his whole life, his self-offering for us, self-emptying for us, which has been going on from all eternity. Harvest festival, as it was mentioned, about this two-fold encounter.
If we mirror God’s openness, and kenosis, the real significance of Harvest Festival, and Dedication is revealed. Something new can begin. Our inner renewal can take place. A positive turning point in our local life, nay, in world history can begin. And we so desperately need this beginning anew in these challenging times.
To conclude, there is this underlying practical message of our feast. What will be our offering for the coming harvest in the present circumstances? How, in what ways can we continue our worship and Christian way of life, in the coming months marked by the presence of Covid 19? How do you keep engaging with your local church community, and its worship? How do we witness that Covid 19 does not break us? We must give our answers in thought, payer, and deed.
The stake is joyful, the stake is high. We, Christians must recognize that the main danger is the break-down of the desire to worship God in community. The cycle of imitating Christ, offering our hearts as a harvest week in and week out, is a visible witness. It socializes others, our youth picks up this cycle of faithfulness without words. Our lives these months is a form of martyrdom. Let us recognize these challenging times as such a call for love and faithfulness.
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..