In their spoof on the 1834 children's poem 'January brings the snow' by Sara Coleridge, the wonderful 1960’s musical comedy team of Michael Flanders and Donald Swann, after bemoaning September's mist and mud, sang 'Then October adds a gale, wind and slush and rain and hail'. Actually, Coleridge had written 'Fresh October brings the pheasant, then to gather nuts is pleasant', which doesn't fit the bill so well as, at the time of writing this introduction to Pax, things appeared far less cosy. And that's just the hurricanes, tornadoes, storms and floods.
Still, the year is moving on - indeed, in the old Celtic calendar, October is the last month of the year. That calendar was a continuing Wheel of the Year, with each of the three-month seasons centred on the shortest or longest day or one of the two equinoxes, and October completes the season of harvests, which we know as the Lammas, from the Anglo-Saxon 'hlaef-mas', the Mass Loaf, made from the first flour ground after the harvest.
The Celtic church was very much rooted in the countryside, in rural communities, unlike the Christianity brought by converts in Caesar's legions and later by missionaries from Rome that belonged more to the hierarchy of the cities and which later stifled what had been the British church. The Celts, rather as the Buddhists do now, regarded sin as consisting largely of being uncaring and heedless, so to live a good life was to be mindful, keeping one's eyes open, and it's been suggested that if the old church had survived, the gap that has widened over the centuries between Christianity and nature might not have led to the west's current lack of care for our world.
Yet this year churches throughout the world have been asked to
pray, reflect and act on the care of all creation, the environment and the world we live in, all during Creationtide 2017, a period ending on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi. To explore this, and not just until
4th October, the Irish Franciscans have an attractive website you may wish to visit: www.praying-nature.com.
And if we think that we can't do much to help there, let's widen our scope to our interaction with people too. We as individuals can't do much about North Korea or Burma or the EU either; we don't all have equal power, but we do all have the opportunity, and responsibility, to make the lives of other people better, to help instil respect for all living things. We are all choosers: every interaction offers a choice between compassion or contempt. Nothing is too small to matter: a greeting, a kind word, a helping hand, sorting out our recycling. So, extra to any New Year resolution we might make for 2018, let's add another for the Celtic New Year starting next month with All Saints' Day: let's remember, nothing is too small to matter.