The Harvest of Communion
We are farmers and we are interfaith, deeply forged by the changing seasons. During November we gather the harvest of the earth and all creation. During November our winter rye is spread as a cover crop over the soil, and this year we planted ten grapevines. These grapes and this rye are the substance of our sacraments. These vegetables were our communion with the saved and blessed seeds and communion with farmers who grow our food, our communion with the land. We remember the Feast Days of Souls and Saints the freezing before the holiday on the last Thursday of November, and the beginning of advent. The dead are among us but as a marigold head that dies near the path, the seeds are gathered to be saved and blessed to be planted to rise again. The rhythms of Mother Earth and Mother Church are seamless shaped within the same body. During November we remember our communion with the land, all creation, the sainthood of those who nourish us.
One might be surprised to hear that Camden, NJ is a place to find the rhythms of Mother Church and Mother Earth as interlocking,. Our curbside theology reveals the sacrament of all creation. Camden is far more than disproportionately faced with the environmental burdens of the region. When toilets are flushed, when trash is thrown away, it comes to my neighborhood in Waterfront South. This place where the land is broken and the bodies are shed are places where we must work out our theology of justice. Jesus lived accordingly so and we follow him in communal commitments. It is just as the harvest of the Wampanoag People giving of their harvest so the Pilgrims might live at Plymouth Rock teaching them to live off the land. The harvest in our gardens and all creation is our communion with our neighbors and the land. The Wampanoag table is a table of hospitality facing death.
In the autumn when the cornstalk heads are bowed so our own heads as we remember the Souls and the Saints on our Feast Days in the beginning of Native History Month. During this time the church remembers the community of the dead and the goodness of the saints that have gone before us. It is the gathering of the harvest of all creation. The Saints carry with them the acts of mercy and liberation, devotion and healing miracles, and this strength is found in our communion together. Yes it is the time before the frost but it also the best time to plant your fruit trees growing strong roots well watered with the rains of the hurricane season. This fall we planted 18 fruit trees in our new fruit tree orchard in a lot where a dead body was found years ago. During this time as we especially remember the wisdom of the Native Americans and the great acts of mercy in growing and sharing of their harvest sharing and the tragic story of the brokenness of this land.
I was recently riding on a bus down to Washington, D.C., as I was crossing over the Susquehanna River I was reflecting upon the beauty of the river. This river has greatly shaped my sense of spiritual connection, growing up near its shores in Lancaster.
As we crossed the river I thought about the purple river hills, the life giving waters, the wind carrying me to sea and the flowing current. As we neared the far side I gasped when I saw the open strip-mine cut into the waterfront riverhill of Christ, broken, and shed. The life of motherland cut open and slain for the healing of our technological fixes. This has become communion with the land and our communion with each other.
The time between the Holidays formally known as Columbus Day and Thanksgiving is the time to gather our harvests. It is also the time of the gathering of the Souls and the Saints. And it is the gathering of the harvest with friend and stranger. Columbus Day is often referred to as Indigenous Peoples Day, remembering the people who were here first and the impacts of germs, guns, and steel. As the time for Thanksgiving approaches it is of utmost importance to include our confession of broken individual and systemic acts of injustice within our communion of the harvest of all creation. We remember the Wampanoag people and the sharing of their garden harvest of the three sisters and the mercy works of Squanto, a Wompanoag man who taught the Pilgrims who settled on Plymouth Rock, the smallpox that followed, and the taking of the land and naming it Plymouth Plantation. Since 1970 many Native American activists declared Thanksgiving the “National Day of Mourning.” I like to think of it as Forgiveness asking and giving Day, a day of sharing and regathering in our communion, the confession within community and thankfulness for hospitality. With this season we remember the precedence of confession within communion.
Within our bodies we commit to the non-violence of Christ’s communion in this mystery and the peacemaking saints during this season. In many Native American traditions it is the wise council of Grandmothers who decided to declare war. They suffered the true consequences of violence. We remember our Italian Grandmothers, our Native American Grandmothers, and we remember our Grandmothers who came on the May Flower. All are welcome at the saints’ table of peace, the table of confession and communion.
During the months of October and November it also the time of the year to plant your garlic. It is one of the first crops to grow up in the spring. It is the foundation for most of our cooking please visit aferich.blogspot.com for more details.
1. In what ways have you experienced a deep connection with the earth?
2. In what ways can you see systemic injustices influencing how you can love you neighbor?
3. What are some your favorite holiday food traditions?
4. Describe some of your favorite memories of a loved one that you remember?
5. In what ways might you retell the Thanksgiving Story within the lens of justice?
6. What is one thing you can do in your garden in the fall ?
this article was published here in the Mennonite Weekly Review