That I might know

May 2, 2009

flammarion_woodcut

Now God grant I speak suitably and value these endowments at their worth: For he is the guide of Wisdom and the director of the wise. For both we and our words are in his hand, as well as all prudence and knowledge of crafts. For he gave me sound knowledge of existing things, that I might know the organization of the universe and the force of its elements, the beginning and the end and the midpoint of times, the changes in the sun’s course and the variations of the seasons. Cycles of years, positions of the stars, natures of animals, tempers of beasts, powers of the winds and thoughts of men, uses of plants and virtues of roots- such things as are hidden I learned and such as are plain; for Wisdom, the artificer of all, taught me.

– Book of Wisdom, 7:15-22

The rain seems to be breaking a little, so I may yet accomplish some yard tasks today: deadheading the tulips and maybe some weeding. The lawn will have to wait, which is a bummer because the grass is getting pretty tall.  The birds (goldfinches! cedar waxwings!) here are in full riot and the big ditch across the way is doubtlessly full of rainwater again, which means that the frogs will be back shortly.

The picture above is a colored version of the so-called Flammarion woodcut. It was believed to be medieval, but it is more likely to have been produced in the 19th century.  Fabrication or no, I like it a great deal. Et docere et rerum exquirere causas* – isn’t that what it’s all about?

Anyway – I’ve had a long and abiding interest in the seasonal cycles: changes of daylight, the movement of the sun, moon and stars, solstices, and equinoxes. In terms of history, it wasn’t all that long ago that these are the cycles that regulated daily life and I think we minimize these things to our own detriment. We are creatures of the earth – divine for sure, but no less connected to the rest of the creation. We head inside and bear down on the tasks at hand and lose sight of the changing shadows outside. Or the different kinds of light in the evening from one month to the next. The pre-Christian calendar recognized these cycles, prefiguring  – until claimed by baptism –  our own liturgical year. Consider: the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, which is celebrated on (or around) the summer solstice. The days begin shrinking, bit by bit, until the winter solstice. What does the Precursor tell his followers regarding the Christ? He must increase, I must decrease. The year descends into night until the Nativity of Our Lord. The summer sun for the rich and winter fire for the poor dispels the darkness from our world, guiding us towards the morning of the year,  the renewal of spring.

We were meant, I believe, to live a little closer to the ground and sky than we do today. Cultivate a greater awareness of sun, sky, root, leaf, soil and stone. Re-root. Go outside.

But don’t forget the Claritin.

* – “To teach and inquire into the nature of things,” motto of our alma mater, the University of Georgia

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2 Responses to “That I might know”

  1. PeregrinJoe Says:

    Excellent post. Since I am not a part of the Catholic faith tradition, I was unaware of the close connection between the liturgical calendar and the seasons. I think that is delightful. I often try and think of ways to make my faith my integral to all of my life. I want my faith to be THE central aspect of my existence, that which touches, motivates, and sustains everything else in my life. Stuff like this helps maintain that focus.

    Thanks.

  2. fosco Says:

    Thanks. The liturgical seasons (Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter) are treasures and the rightful patrimony of all Christians, Catholic or not.


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