opening ourselves with the hinging daylight hours

Friday, July 31, 2009

Lammasmass------August's Liturgy

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From an early period, Christians adopted a liturgy that carefully observed the correspondences of human praise with the numinous moments of the dawn, and the sunset, and with the transitions of the various seasons of the year. ~ Thomas Berry

Sacraments surround us in daily and annual cycles, marked by the sun and the moon, embodied in daylight hours and tides. We name them and ritualize these mysteries as moments of transformation, transubstantiation, and of rebirth.

Some people profess an exact number of sacraments such as baptism, communion, marriage, and confession. And some would add others, such as feet washing, seed saving, laughter, and jubilee. These have been given to us to bring us to together as acts of grace, love, and justice. Each sacrament is a mystery, and each from within its own context of everlasting life, continues our bloodline of forgiveness, genetic diversity, and preservation.

These sacraments, like feast days, are celebrations of peacemaking. And within the economy of abundance, within the earth, and with the surrounding heavenly bodies, the sacraments form a holy communion with each other. Through them the Creator penetrates and alters our substance and marks out the most common occurrences surrounding elements of life from our cycles of sleeping and waking, to climatic and fertility cycles.

Through these sacramental mysteries all are woven in harmony as one; human with human, human with the land and the rest of creation, and finally with the bliss of human with Creator. This communion embodies a trinity composed of human, creation, and Creator, which is a dynamic trinity of community within community and oneness.

If the wheat seed is not planted then the grain will not be milled, the dough will not rise with the yeast, and the bread will not be broken in remembrance of the Peacemaker. We have been given food with all of creation for our sustenance, our survival. We humans are set apart simply because we save seeds. When the community gathers and shares in the reaping of the grain seed, which is caught to be milled or saved for next year's planting, the members commune within tradition and sacrament, with each other, with the creator, with all of creation, and with the land that will remember for at least seven generations. The communion begins long before that moment at the alter or within our home.

The resurrection of the fertile summer, with the seasonal dwindling sunlight hours, ripens these seeds. During these seasonal cycles, we save seeds instead of letting them fall when the plants ripen. This is the Lammasmass, when the grain is cut, eaten, and digested. The saving or milling of the seed are equaling mysteries. The mystery of our earth transforms our bodies when we eat the grain. It is Carbon nutrients that keep cycling, this time becoming vitamins and other healing properties. Food and drink grow and are grown for you with love. Act in remembrance of resurrection when you pray to bless the hands that grew your food.

We are the ones who are called to proper relationships with our farmers, to know the love and thoughtful acts of ethical agroecological principles of sustainability, fully intentional social, economic, and ecological sacraments of abundance and redistribution that our farmers employ.

Seed saving is brought to us by all agrarian people throughout time. This tradition of agro-eco-justice is brought to us by the Jews, a holy and nomadic people who waited in eager anticipation for the promised land. They follow the law of P'eah, which is the rule of saving the corners of the field for the poor, hungry, widow, orphan, and foreigner. Jews also abide to a strict accurate agricultural accounting, a redistribution of the harvest, and jubilee. Jews were given seed from their homeland. Simultaneously the indigenous people of the Americas, originally called Turtle Island, brought us many varieties of seeds from fruit, vegetables, berries, and grain from their native home.

It is the beginning of August, known as Lammasmass to the Celts of Northern Ireland, which is a holy time of liturgy and hopeful harvest. This feast day of our Catholic Church also marks the economy of sacramental rhythms and communion with the Earth on the first of August. Lammas and the feast days mark the middle of summer, halfway to the vernal equinox and the solistice, a Celtic celebration of the first harvest, the yang of Groundhog's Day when all is fully fertile. Perhaps the tradition has been lost in time, but imagine the squirrel peering into its hole marking the weeks till Autumn; a countdown for acorn saving.

We celebrate Lammas Sunday at Sacred Heart in Camden, NJ on the first Sunday of August when a loaf of bread and the grain from our garden is carried into the church. We remember that this communion with the land is eaten in rememberence of Christ who rose again. The grain is cut and broken. Our celebration stems from this yeast of peacemaking when we mill the rye grown from our gardens. This first Sunday in August is also called Loafmass when the bread and grain from the first harvest is carried to the shrine alter. The body of Christ, as this bread, both came from the land and the people and nourishes the land and the people. We celebrate the fullness of the summer, yet we know the sun's strength and length are beginning to wane and we must begin to store up this harvest for winter. The first grains are cut on Lammasmass.

We harvested the grains of winter rye and popcorn planted on Cinco de Mayo today in the beginning of August and saved 10% of our seeds for next year's planting; our tithing of abundance.

Like the story of Demeter and Persipheny, ours is a story of life and death associated with grain. Demeter, the goddess of grain and distribution and the fertility goddess of Greek story and seasons, the mother of Persipheny, gave agricultural seed to the humans as she rules the seasons. Perhaps the greatest recent transition of humanity was the gift of grain and the awareness of agricultural cycles which set humans apart from wild animals.
The origins of the domestication of grain from wild grass is unknown, yet it could have been as simple as a young child pulling the seeds from the plants and putting them into her pocket. Like the Greeks, the People from Turtle Island tell the story of seed given to human; their goddess was called Corn Woman. The corn plant must die in order for it to return next year for the seed to come to fullness. The crops of the summer heat, ripened and picked tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers, and squash overflow the field and the kitchen and fill the aisles.

This Celtic quarter day is not well known but its depth for the Christian can be understood through the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. During Lammas the first sheath of grain is
ceremonially reaped, threshed, milled and baked into a loaf. Human life and Nature are one under the Creator and in the smallest act the sacred comes to life.
We planted winter rye in our garden beds this year as a cover crop. It was harvested with the junior farmers of Camden, NJ on the Feast of Corpus Christi and let to dry and season to be milled on Lammas.


Bake a loaf of Bread on Lammas in August, even if you have never baked a loaf of bread before. Make gingerbread people, or cornbread if you must, but take this time during August to contemplate yourself as a most holy grain. Focus on the Lord's prayer, most specifically "give us this day our daily bread," and return to the hearth. Bring yourself to your own central oven and the Creator's oven of mystery.


1 comment:

Brian said...

Very interesting reflection, very deep. I can relate - I am in the produce business - importer - office in Gloucester City.
Much more to all this business than money.

God bless!