These days we buy our bread at the supermarkets, but if we didn’t have supermarkets, we’d all have been working with urgency to harvest our wheat in midsummer, for bread would be, above all other things, that which could assure our survival through the winter. So in days gone by, the first of August used to be the feast of St. Peter in Chains, and it commemorated the miraculous release of the Apostle Simon Peter from his prison in Jerusalem. In old parts of the world, we can still find churches or chapels named for this now suppressed feast. But in Medieval England, the first of August was also called Lammas Day (meaning “Loaf Mass Day”) as this was the festival of first fruits in the season of Harvest. Midsummer’s hay was stacked, the harvest was in the barn, and so Lammastide became a season to remind all that it was the Lord who provided our sustenance. So on the first of August, tradition dictated that beautiful loaves of bread from the newly harvested wheat be baked and taken to the parish church to be blessed.
Here in Georgia, these weeks of August are also somewhat transitional. Our days can still be extremely hot, but come nighttime we may be pulling up the quilts. The last of the figs and blueberries can be picked just as some of the first apples start to ripen. Grapes may still be heavy on the vines, but the pecans have yet to fall from their lofty heights. These same weeks are for us something of homecoming season, when summer vacations are coming to an end, when families are coming back from their summer places, and when the children are starting to prepare for another year of school. In the distance, we may hear the sounds of scrimmaging and coaches’ whistles, and war drums as the young men begin their drills for football, and the high school bands start their marching.
At our parish, the choirs will soon start back up, everywhere there seem to be children underfoot, and the mums begin to bloom. We have entered that last half of Ordinary Time as we are drawn towards the great solemnity of Christ the King. It is a joyful time of year, because we are all gathered in, like the harvest, and prepared for yet another year of grace. Welcome home everyone.