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March 01, 2006

St David's Day - Feast or Fast, now that is the question!

St David, the Patron Saint of Wales, is commemorated today by many, but it does, as a feast, conflict with the marking of Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Fasting! The normal means of dealing with this in the Church's manner is to simply "move the feast" so that it can be celebrated by the faithful without the problem of having to break their fast for Lent. In our increasingly secular world, however, we find that the commercial and media interests just ignore the start of Lent and go for what makes them some money - a national Saint's Day!

This date is also "celebrated" as the "official" first day of Spring, which, considering that it snowed yesterday, then rained, then blew a near gale - and today we have forecasts for severe weather in the Northern half of the country - is something of a joke. To me it is yet another example of ignorant politicians and bureaucrats sticking their grubby fingers into matters they do not understand in order to increase their "control" over our lives. You cannot "order" the seasons to follow a set pattern any more than we can control the weather or any other part of our natural cycle. Weather patterns change, cycles change, and we have little influence over it.

In the days in which the Saint we commemorate as David brought Christianity to the people of Wales, humanity was much more inclined to live in a state that accepted the natural rhythmn, inconvenient though it was. Planting took place after the farmers had themselves determined that the seasons were changing and not at the dictat of some "guidance" from another part of the country altogether. Mind you, the sensible farmers still do, after all, they know their own land, and the local cycles and conditions far better than someone in an office in Whitehall ever will.

Our modern lives demand that we eat three times a day, that we eat a balanced diet, that we have variety in our meals - that we have available to us many fruits that are not native to these shores, or completely out of season for most of our year. The modern diet comprises meat, fish, poultry, root vegetables, leaf vegetables and fruit in a plenty virtually unknown in many parts of the world - even those that grow most of what we eat! So, perhaps this is what we should focus on as we go into Lent this year, considering as our focus for Lent, "who is going hungry so that I can eat as well as I do?"

In St David's time the seasons held an importance beyond our understanding of them today. Today they are little more than an inconvenience, it's cold and wet, when we long for the sun, or hot a dry when we long for rain - or, if you, like me, are a hayfever sufferer, everything is pumping out allergens when I would like to enjoy the sun, the open spaces and the warmth! Even in our grandparents day (Probably best described as Before Refridgerators!) the changing seasons meant that food had to be prepared to bridge the gap between one harvest and the next, particularly the vegetables on which we depend for variety and that lovely concept "roughage" are seasonal. Potatoes had to be dried and stored in dark, dry places, onions, beetroot, cabbage, beans and several other vegetables pickled and stored in sealed jars for consumption later in the depths of winter. Many of the things we today regard as "party" food, were originally essentials if we were to have them available during the winter.

The cycle of planting, growing, reaping and storing held a vital place in all our lives - and should still. As I commented in a thought on Shrove Tuesday yesterday, The choice of timing for the Lenten Fast probably had a great deal to do with conserving one's Winter food stocks until the first of the summer fruits and vegetables became available.

So for those who choose the celebrate St David today and Lent tomorrow, or who have marked David's Feast yesterday and will keep Lent today, I would say this; as we go through Lent this year consider the source of our food, consider the people who produce it. Consider too the implications for us if that source were to be removed through famine, plague (such as Bird Flu or some other pandemic) and ask yourself this question. "Can we survive without our imported supplies, and should we not consider how we would manage if it became a necessity?"

It could be a very important question for those of us now divorced from the seasons by our reliance on the plenty of the supermarket!

Posted by The Gray Monk at March 1, 2006 08:13 AM

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