Mourners attentive to the Church’s funeral rites will often hear these words from the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens” (Eccl 3:1). Scriptural wisdom recognizes that nature speaks authoritatively. Life and death both demand their own times. Each season brings its own gifts alongside necessary sacrifices (rain might prevent us from a day at the beach, but without water, lawns will turn dry and brown). Snow, rain, heat, breeze, falling leaves and budding flowers, all have their place in the cycle of life, for good and for bad. These signs showcase deeper truths. The life of a single tree, for instance, by its own “death” and “resurrection,” easily instructs us about our own nature, its inevitable end, but also hope for the new life to come.
Unsurprisingly, the ambient culture often retaliates against nature’s designs. Not even a week after Labor Day, consumers can’t escape the cacophony of “pumpkin” advertisements on radio and television (“pumpkin spice” drinks contributing to a particular breed of national fury). There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the treats of autumn, of course – especially in New England. But rushing too quickly into the next season before its arrival creates an inescapable anxiety about future life alongside a snub to the present, treating it with a kind of repugnance. Human beings cannot flourish if the future consumes them. Spiritual wisdom beckons us to slow down, and see the designs of nature as instructive for our very lives. How can man contemplate reality, and its link to the transcendent, if he bypasses everything in front of him in order to obtain the next? Listen to the wisdom of Ecclesiastes, and treat every thing according to its own time.
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