The Blessing of the Harvest

Harvest BlessingEach year the Orthodox Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ.  The fest celebrates the time when Jesus climbed the mountain and he appearance was transfigured and His Divinity showed forth in “radiant splendor.”  The Feast of the Transfiguration is one of the twelve great feasts of the Church.  Part of the celebration of this feast is the blessing of grapes but that has been extended to the blessing of the harvest.

At several points during the various liturgical celebrations of the Orthodox Church we pray for an “abundance of the fruits of the earth” and for “favorable weather.”  During the priestly prayers of the Liturgy of St. Basil, the priest prays for “gentle showers to bring for forth fruit.”  Much of this is because Orthodox, as a common rule, have a theology of care for the earth and the environment.  But more importantly, we are praying for a successful harvest so that there will be plenty to eat.

There are various prayers in the Priest’s Service Book, prayers for herds, prayers for apiaries, prayers for animals giving birth; I guess you could say we are very earthy people.  When the chickens first arrived I held a service of blessing for them for their health and for their protection.  The animals provide food for us and in return we make sure they are healthy and that they are secure for anything that will harm them.  Blessing them then is a very natural thing to do.

The blessing used on August 6th is really a blessing of grapes.  The grapes were ready to be harvested around this time of the year so it was logical that they would be blessed.  Grapes also “transfigure” into something else and like wheat that we use for the holy bread, the grapes become the wine that will be sanctified and become the Blood of Christ.  However, we have extended this prayer to include the entire harvest.

This year, some of the gardeners in the church, brought baskets with things from their garden.  The placed these, gifts of the earth, on the solea at the start of Liturgy and they were blessed at the conclusion with this prayer:

Bless, O Lord, this new crop of the gifts of the earth which, through favorable winds and showers of the rain and calm weather, you have been pleased to bring to full ripeness.

May it bring joy to us who partake of it; and on those who have brought it as a gift may it confer forgiveness of sins through the sacred Body and Blood of your Christ, with whom you are blessed, together with your all-holy and good and life-giving Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

The blessing also reminds us that all gifts come from God and we need to be thankful not only for the gifts but for the farmers who help to produce the food that we eat.

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