Back to school. The start of September. These were phrases which used to stir up mixed emotions in me when I was teacher. On the one hand it meant an end to the long summer holiday and everything that had been enjoyed over those few weeks: travel, seeing friends and family, relaxation. On the other hand it meant a return to what I enjoyed doing, what I found fulfilment in, what I was paid for! It was for me the start of a new year, more acutely so than January 1st. The pattern of the school terms gave a shape to the year.


In the Middle Ages the whole pattern of the year was shaped by the Church. There were of course periods of fast and feast, Christmas followed Advent and Easter followed Lent. On Fridays people abstained from meat. There were important festivals such as Whitsun and numerous saint’s days. All of this gave a pattern to the year. Today the major Christian festivals still give shape to the year whether people acknowledge it or not. For some other things give a pattern to the year. Die hard football fans might see the start of the football season as the beginning of their year with markers throughout the year, with the end of May to mid-August being their fast before the feast – except of course in a World Cup year! In a changing world reoccurring patterns help to give meaning.


C.S. Lewis in ‘The Screwtape Latters’ has the old daemon explaining to the novice that this is God given blessing to humanity “He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that very union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual year; they change from fast to feast, but it is the same feast as before”. Of course this is founded in scripture. In that well known passage from Ecclesiastes 3 we are told “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven”


As I look out the window the skies are grey, it’s beginning to rain and the wind’s getting up. In itself that’s a reminder, by contrast, to be thankful for the glorious summer we have had. I love the summer but I know I wouldn’t appreciate it so much without the winter experience of the short days and cold conditions. In Matthew 6 when Jesus says “Consider the lilies of the fields…” in speaking about not worrying, in part at least, I think he’s saying take time to look around you and appreciate and give thanks for the patterns in creation which God has made you part of. Look for the blessings of each season, of each time of year, each phase of life.


Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

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