We’ve reached something of the zenith of the spooky or supernatural time of year that is mid-autumn. We’ve celebrated the feast of St. Michael, Halloween has come and gone, and now we’re headed to the feast of Christ the King of the Universe. In the midst of all of this, we pause for two days to remember those who have died. Today we celebrate All Saints, especially those who have gone unnamed. Tomorrow we celebrate All Souls, those who continue their journey to paradise through purgatory.
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s easy to see how autumn hangs together with the agricultural season. We are savoring the bounty of the harvest, and the land is falling asleep. Trees lose their leaves and their sap slows in its flowing. Many animals prepare for hibernation. If winter is the season of death, autumn is the season of dying. This seems an appropriate time to contemplate the spiritual side of life. We see how the world in its present state fails. Nothing lasts. Everything dies. And yet it isn’t dead yet. What’s more, it is fabulously beautiful. Mists and rain give the land an eerie aura. The trees seem to celebrate their slowing down with a symphony of color. Even the animals chitter and chatter as they collect the last of their necessities or prepare themselves for the long journey south.
But in the midst of this, the Church reminds us that even though it looks like everything is dying, there is more life, a truer life, roiling in the background, allowed to present itself more clearly as the material lets go. Angels are present to us; they stand behind the wind and rain and the trees and animals. Our guardian angels keep near us and care for us. The dead — those we so often think of as lost — are still present, still here without being here.
I think about those I’ve lost. Grandparents I never met, some I knew for only a short time, friends who died too soon. But they aren’t lost. They are here, they are with me. They pray for me and I can pray for them. Just as autumn leads to winter, so dying leads to death. But we must remember that winter is not the end. Spring and summer will come again. So too will life. The dead are in their spring, burgeoning forth with new life not complete, not made whole. And in the summer, we will all be resurrected, all come forth fully into halcyon days of joy and feasting and happiness because our King will come.
This is why it is fitting that Christ the King of the Universe is celebrated the Sunday before the liturgical year starts over. We end with a reminder that the whole universe — not just the material, but the immaterial as well — is ruled by one who is Love. In the meantime, we must endure. Edgar says so to his father in Shakespeare’s “King Lear”:
“Men must endure
Their going hence, even as their coming hither;
Ripeness is all: come on.”
Ripeness is all. And we are not yet ripened, we are not ready for the harvest. But that day will come. And this is what we remember now in this liminal space, this time between Pentecost and Advent, this time between Michaelmas and Christ the King. We must endure, we must hope, we must love.
Dr. David Russell Mosley is a poet and theologian living and teaching in the Inland Northwest. His debut book of poetry, “The Green Man,” is available from Resource Publications. In his spare time, Dr. Mosley likes wandering around in the woods, spending time in community and smoking a pipe.