The earth hath yielded her fruit

IrelandWe are in the harvest–tide of the Kingdom of God: the good seed sown by the Divine Sower in the field of the Church has sprouted, grown up, and given its fruit. Rightly do we sing every morning at Lauds:

Let the people, O God, confess to thee: let all the people give praise to thee: the earth hath yielded her fruit. (Psalm 66:6–7)

God has blessed the crown of the year of His goodness: and His fields are filled with plenty. The season of growth, however, is never without dangers to the harvest. Wherever there is growth in holiness, there too will the forces of evil be at work, sowing bad seed among the good. This is the drama of today’s Gospel parable:

There was a man who sowed his field with clean seed; but while all the world was asleep, an enemy of his came and scattered tares among the wheat, and was gone. So, when the blade had sprung up and come into ear, the tares, too, came to light; and the farmer’s men went to him and said, Sir, was it not clean seed thou didst sow in thy field? How comes it, then, that there are tares in it? He said, An enemy has done it. (Matthew 13:24–28)

Have no illusions about this. The devil is, at every moment, surveying the field of God, and plotting to impede there the growth of “all that rings true, all that commands reverence, and all that makes for right; all that is pure, all that is lovely, all that is gracious in the telling” (Philippians 4:8). A monastery is not exempt from the incursions of the enemy who comes by night to scatter tares among the wheat. Quite the contrary. When the powers of darkness see a monastery emerging, they are on high alert. A monastery represents a danger to the grip of evil on the world. We are, therefore, bound to take seriously the injunction of Saint Peter:

Be sober and watch: because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

This being said, there is no need to panic. Our Lord’s words are clear enough:

And his men asked him, Wouldst thou then have us go and gather them up? But he said, No; or perhaps while you are gathering the tares you will root up the wheat with them. Leave them to grow side by side till harvest, and when harvest-time comes I will give the word to the reapers, Gather up the tares first, and tie them in bundles to be burned, and store the wheat in my barn. (Matthew 13:28–30)

The secret of an abundant harvest is to pray ceaselessly, to pray with perseverance, to pray with confidence, to pray out of the depths of our infirmity, our helplessness, and our temptations:

Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice. Let thy ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication. (Psalm 129:1-2)

The Secret of today’s Mass asks God not only, in His mercy, to absolve us of our sins, but also to set straight our wavering hearts. Et nutántia corda tu dírigas. One might say, “and to set in the right way our hearts that go this way and that”. All the saints of Ireland whom we remember today attest to the faithfulness and mercy of God. The great number of them, you will note, were either monks or martyrs. We have already addressed them twice in the antiphon of the commemoration at the Office:

O ye Saints of God, paradise is opened to you; the tree of life is planted; abundance is made ready; the city is built, [wherein] rest is found; charity is perfect; infirmity is lifted from you; sorrows have passed away, alleluia. (Processionale Monasticum)

In the end, the love of Christ will triumph, and the fire of His Heart will blaze forth to consume all that opposes His reign. In this, there is immense comfort for us who wait for the great harvest in a charity that is imperfect, in infirmities of mind and of body, in sorrows that weigh heavily on our hearts. The saints surround us, and say with one voice:

In all these things we overcome, because of him that hath loved us. (Romans 8:37)