October: Nature's Glorious Sermon

Let creation beguile you

Next week at The Cottage will be special!

Monday will start with a guest post from Patrick Henry (a wonderful witty and insightful writer you may not know!) as he takes on Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option with a plea for Benedictine Options (plural).

Patrick’s essay will be in the free edition of The Cottage. But, if you join the community behind the paywall, you’ll also receive my conversation with him on The Secret Garden on Tuesday - the private podcast of author interviews for Cottage supporters.

In addition to the podcast, the supporting community will also ZOOM to the COTTAGE on Thursday, October 7 at 7:00pm. We’ll be doing a live broadcast with my guest, Elizabeth “Libbie” Schrader, who is a Duke Ph.D. candidate in New Testament (and a talented musician). She’s doing very exciting work on textual criticism (yes, I just said “exciting” and “textual criticism” in the same sentence) on Mary Magdalene in the Gospel of John that is gaining international attention. (For those who can’t make the live event, a recording will be available).

To receive the podcast and to participate in ZOOM to the COTTAGE, update to a supporting subscription by clicking on this button below and join the on-going community at The Cottage.

(No one is ever turned away for lack of funds. If you want to join but are financially unable, just reply to this email - as you would any email - and let me know.)

HAPPY OCTOBER from The Cottage!

October is such a beautiful month in Virginia - a month of change. I’m fairly certain I’ve picked the last beans from my garden, the peppers are slowing, the cool weather herbs - parsleys and chives - are flourishing again. And, of course, mums and pumpkins are making their yearly appearance.

In the northern hemisphere, October turns us toward winter. I always hope that the turning will be slow and long to hold off the coming cold and dark. The final flowers and the final fruits in the garden and at the farmers market are, to me, heroes in their orange and purple array. They make me feel as if the growing will never end. How can the garden’s demise and the starkness of winter be so near with these guardians of glory on duty?

But the sentinels aren’t permanent. They are the harbingers of change. And change can be hard - even stress inducing. Autumn reminds me how change can be beautiful. Indeed, I’ve often found that the changes I’ve least wanted to face were attended by a season of intense color - giving me the ability to see my own life and the world in ways that are otherwise invisible. Seasons of transition might lead to an unwelcome change - but they leave us with tokens of their fleeting wisdom to carry through the long months of what lies ahead.

Journey slowly these weeks. October invites us into the present moment. Don’t hurry through nature’s most glorious sermon. Know that change will come - the turning toward the winter of things. The seasons are the earth’s liturgy of life and death, and October is that liturgy’s thanksgiving of abundance, of harvest, of slanted light. Of coming to rest in the grace of change.

So, look at the blue skies, the turning leaves, the golden sunlight, the Hunter’s moon. And pray these lines from Robert Frost. Delight in the days as summer gives way. Let life beguile you. Embrace October’s transcendent and transient now.

Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.

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October 4 is the Feast Day of St. Francis. Of his namesake saint, Pope Francis has written:

“I believe that Saint Francis is the example par excellence of care for the vulnerable and of an integral ecology lived out joyfully and authentically. . . He was particularly concerned for God’s creation and for the poor and outcast. He loved, and was deeply loved for his joy, his generous self-giving, his openheartedness. He was a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself. He shows us just how inseparable the bond is between concern for nature, justice for the poor, commitment to society, and interior peace.”



O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.
— Robert Frost

Creator of All,

We are grateful that from your communion of love you created our planet to be a home for all. By your Holy Wisdom you made the Earth to bring forth a diversity of living beings that filled the soil, water and air. Each part of creation praises you in their being, and cares for one another from our place in the web of life.

With the Psalmist, we sing your praise that in your house “even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young.” We remember that you call human beings to keep your garden in ways that honor the dignity of each creature and conserve their place in the abundance of life on Earth.
Seasons of Creation Prayer, 2021

The woods is shining this morning.
Red, gold and green, the leaves
lie on the ground, or fall,
or hang full of light in the air still.
Perfect in its rise and in its fall, it takes
the place it has been coming to forever.
It has not hastened here, or lagged.
See how surely it has sought itself,
its roots passing lordly through the earth.
See how without confusion it is
all that it is, and how flawless
its grace is. Running or walking, the way
is the same. Be still. Be still.
“He moves your bones, and the way is clear.”

— Wendell Berry

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