Anyone who has followed this blog since we started back in November can probably tell that we are interested in getting "back to the earth." Although we're not currently in a place where we can truly live the agrarian life, it is a family aspiration that we pray will be fulfilled someday. We often find ourselves longing for the day when we can truly immerse ourselves in the earth and face the challenges and joys that it will bring.
In the meantime, we have plenty of things to learn that don't require a plot of land. We have already begun to discover the joy that comes from working as a family. Even simple activities like brewing beer, baking bread and canning have already drawn us closer to one another and enriched our spiritual life. To my mind, this is where the old dichotomy between soul and body begins to fall apart. The soul of our family is enlivened by these earthy, bodily activities. It is a new way of discovering Christ, of encountering His presence in day-to-day life.
As expressed in this great blog post by D. Rose, however, the desire to live the agrarian life and do "old fashioned" things isn't simply an attempt to step back in time. What is attractive about the agrarian life isn't only its deep connection with the land and bygone days. To my mind, one of the things that makes the agrarian life most attractive is its connection to the Catholic liturgical year. In our fast-paced society, rife with deadlines, networking and constant communication, it can be so difficult to establish any kind of rhythm. What I notice about the lives of men and women of old is that their lives were regulated by liturgy, and that the liturgy was, more frequently than not, in dialogue with the seasons. The liturgy was not a detached "issue" that one could converse and read about. It was not just something that happened on Sundays and Holy Days. The liturgy informed each and every day of the year. To be "in season" was not simply a statement of fashion; rather, the seasons were seen as themselves liturgical.
To put it more clearly, living the agrarian life seems to provide at least some protection against the "formlessness" of modern living, as A. Ellison of Catholic Phoenix puts it so perfectly. To live in accordance with the cycles of the seasons, in a strange combination of self-sufficiency as well as absolute dependence on the yield of earth and sky...what could be more opposed to the open-ended, "on demand," anything-goes metronome that is, so often, modern life? And would this not be more conducive to submission to Providence than the illusion of endless creativity?
To that end, we're happy to enter into the newest rhythm of the liturgical season:
Yes, Carnival!! (But no, not that kind of carnival. The term actually derives from the Latin, "Carne--vale!", or "Meat---farewell!") This "unofficial season" is perhaps more tied to the flesh than to the land. As noted at Fish Eaters, during carnival " Catholics want to eat while they can and get the frivolity out of their systems in preparation for the somber Lenten spirit to come." The carnival season begins after the feast of the Epiphany and continues until Shrove Tuesday, or the day before Ash Wednesday (otherwise known as "Mardi Gras"). During this time, the Church calls her members to celebrate with dancing, social events, and of course, good food and drink.
Naturally, as noted at New Advent, "It is intelligible enough that before a long period of deprivations human nature should allow itself some exceptional licence in the way of frolic and good cheer. No appeal to vague and often inconsistent traces of earlier pagan customs seems needed to explain the general observance of a carnival celebration." Apparently the Italians were especially prone to carnival excesses, so much so that Pope Benedict XIV instituted a plenary indulgence for anyone in the Papal States who took part in the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament for three days during carnival season. As for our family, we plan to enjoy a lot of hearty beef stews, expand our knowledge of cheese and, of course, continue to enjoy our Christmas brew (which is still a little green, but hopefully it will finish up before Lent begins!)
Happy Carnival everyone!