Those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere began the season of Autumn at the end of last week. The day is known as the Autumn ‘equinox’ or, more technically, the ‘astronomical equinox’
‘Equinox’ is the day when daylight and darktime hours are equal. This happens twice a year in Spring and Autumn. The word ‘equinox’ comes from two Latin words, aequus which means, equal and nox which means night.
The initial effect is that we notice the nights are darker for longer and there is generally a drop in temperature. Nature begins to adjust accordingly. Many birds migrate whilst other birds arrive to over-winter. Many animals hibernate (just as, in this season and, in winter many of us would like to do so also!)
Biologically the pace of life slows. For some it isn’t a happy season but for others it has a magic of its own.
The countryside, forests, woods and parkland areas of towns are ablaze with colour as the leaves of the trees put on their autumn garb. They are stunning signs of summer’s end and the onset of winter as the trees become skeletal. Not everyone enjoys this time of year. Those beautiful leaves, golden, red and bronze are fluttering to their death.
A poem, I was once given, expresses a poignancy about this process of autumnn and deepens the message.
‘When I am King
I’ll wear a robe of autumn gold
and deep blue sky
and tell my fierce red subjects ‘Hold
up your rich dying, do not die
For I’m your King.’
but they’ll reply
Such robes are only won by dying.
The poem was composed by a young man who was diagnosed with an illness for which there was no cure. It was a powerful comment on his own impending death, but not in any morbid or fatalistic way. It ends on a note of hope.
There is no way we can hold up the natural order of things as season moves into season. Nor can we hold up the process of our own dying which is as inevitable as that of the leaves falling from the trees.
But it is how we view, or bear, this process of dying which matters.
As Christians, death should be viewed as a positive experience which ought not to frighten us.
Gilbert Shaw, an amazing guider of souls wrote:
God’s gift is death as well as birth:
No man can close the open door,
Through which the soul must pass from earth,
To meet unveiled the LOVE that waits.
The open door, through which we pass from death to life eternal where LOVE, who is God, awaits us, in Christ Jesus.
In His dying Jesus put on the robe of autumn gold that can only be won by dying. but in that dying he opened for us the way to a completeness of life that is far more glorious than we dare imagine. This is why we can face death hopefully. It is the door through which we must pass to God
At one level, the falling of the leaves is a sign of Nature’s essential renewal and there is never a complete dying. Even in Autumn, buds are forming on the tree which shed the old leaves so spectacularly.
New life is always near, which is why there is such a truth in the poem by the young man facing his death. You cannot ‘hold up the dying’ .
The rich robes of our Lord are ready to clothe us in Resurrection light and life and love.
Autumn then, is a season of both the emptying of nature and the beginning of renewal and re-birth.
That is a truth for all who are prepared to allow God to draw our souls into the arms of ‘the LOVE that always waits.