Lughnasadh: Reflection on the Festival of First Fruits

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Today we are gathered, and breathe together, in the ancient rhythm of waxing and waning, with those who have gone before us and those who will come after.

We often associate harvest festivals with historical pagan societies such as the Celts, who honored the shining god Lugh on this day, or the Greeks, whose festival of first harvest brought grain to the temples of the Eleusinian goddesses Demeter and Kore.

However, the seed of the first harvest festival is very likely buried deep in the fertile soil of the ages, a whispered hallelujah from the lips of Paleolithic peoples to gods whose names are lost to time. A glow of gratitude for the first fruits to grace the gathering grounds of their families.

The first fruits here in the Northeast are blueberries. Blueberries are a lot like human beings. They come in different varieties, different sizes and shapes. They can be sweet, or tart, or a little bit of both. Most importantly, it takes more than one to feed a hungry world.

Where blueberries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, humans must endeavor to provide the world with vital intangibles: the coursing, nourishing, ambrosial sap of kindness, justice, and love.

We have gathered today for the first harvest of the year, but must not forget that each of the year’s harvests is but one on an endless wheel, a cycle of sowing, and reaping; life, and death; innocence, and experience.

So, when I posit that we must feed the world with the vast intangibles that invest existence with dignity and meaning, my eye is not toward the reaping, but the sowing. In order to rest in the shaded grove of harmony, we must learn to see the oak within the acorn.

Every small kindness is a seed, and every seed is hope revivified, promising a chance at growth amidst a worldly garden too often poisoned by the acrid runoff of ignorance, avarice, and abuse. Scatter your seeds of kindness liberally, let them grow within the cracks in stony hearts like the persistent dandelion thriving in cement, nourishing and bright.

In the garden of life we give of ourselves in the hope that we may all rejoice in the harvest together. A harvest festival is a community occasion. We plant ideas together, and together we water them with our time, expose them to the sunlight of collaboration, and ultimately harvest them as realized, tangible good.

Yet, when we are done, too often the world remains hungry. Though so many kind souls have bent their backs in the fields of justice, toiling toward a better future—for the planet, for the oppressed, for all of us who are joined in this interconnected web of life—too often it seems we can do little to stem the blight of cruelty that strikes at the crop of compassion.

In these times we must remember another lesson of the harvest. We must remember to rest, to let our fields lay fallow. We must remember to diversify our efforts, rotating our crops so that we do not deplete ourselves of enthusiasm. We must rest, and then we must toil. There is sowing, there is reaping, and there is rest. We honor that cycle.

This morning we are gathered together. Let us treat this place we share as a silo, stuffed with the good grain of friendship and compassion. Let us fill our pockets with it when we part, scatter it on fertile soil as we go about our days, grind it into flour to feed the ones we love.

Today is the first harvest festival. Today we breathe together, in the ancient rhythm of waxing and waning, in the presence of those who have come before, whose legacies we reap, and with a promise to sow for those who come after.

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