A Season of Reflection and Amends
As I was walking one recent evening and noticing the changes that come with fall, I began to think about the word itself. I have always been fascinated by words, their origins and meanings, so I decided it might be fun to do some exploring. I decided to begin with the name of this month, and as it turns out, September is quite a fascinating month with many significant events and interesting word origins.
September comes from the Latin word septem of "seven" because it was the seventh month of the early Roman calendar, a calendar that originally consisted of 10 months: Martius, Aprilis, Maius, Junius, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November and December. It was Julius Caesar who grew the calendar to include January and February and then renamed Quintilis and Sextilis to July and August in honor of Julius and Augustus Caesar. Though it seemed strange for the ninth month to be the "Seventh Month" this did not bother Old English speakers. September also has a connection with the meaning of "harvest month."
Looking at the word "harvest," the Old English ‘haerfest’ (autumn) is of Germanic origin and the Old Norse word ‘haust’ meaning to ‘gather or pluck.’
At this point, I was curious where the word fall came into the picture. The Old English word ‘feallan’ means "to drop from a height; fail, decay, die." In the early 1600s as more people moved into cities, the word harvest fell out of use and instead the phrase "fall of the leaf" was used. Over time, the phrase was shortened to fall.
Autumn comes from an ancient Etruscan word to connote passing of the year.
For us, September signals the end of the summer, the beginning of autumn, a time or season of ripening, gathering or collecting… the harvest. It is a time to reap. And so it’s really no surprise then that the Jewish high holy days begin at this very same time. So let’s look at the calendar this year. September 23rd is the first day of autumn. Rosh Hashanah was September 14th and 15th. Yom Kippur begins September 23rd.
Rosh Hashanah is literally the "head (beginning) of the year." It is one of Judaism’s holiest days beginning on the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar. It commemorates the creation of the world and marks the beginning of the Days of Awe, a 10-day period of introspection and repentance that culminates in the Yom Kippur holiday (one of the most important holidays in the Jewish faith), also known as the Day of Atonement and the "Sabbath of Sabbaths." Days during this time are dedicated to prayer, good deeds, reflecting on past mistakes, and making amends with others. Yom Kippur is a time to fast, to cleanse the body and spirit.
And finally, what about the word "seven?" It has long been regarded as the number of perfection. The number seven is used 735 times (54 times in Revelation) in the Bible. It is the foundation of God’s word, the number of completeness.
And so in this very special month of "Septem," "seven" or God’s perfection, we find it is a time to commemorate God’s magnificent creation. It is a time for ripening or maturing. It is a time to harvest, gather or pluck what we have planted and sort out the weeds. In the decay of the summer, or what has been, it’s also a time for reflection and repentance.
These are the times to make amends. These are the times to turn over a new leaf and make ready for what’s to come. These are the times to give ourselves – body, mind and spirit to our Lord. To give love, thanks, and praise to the one who came to atone for us.
Thanks be to God that through Jesus Christ’s ultimate sacrifice, we are inscribed in God’s Book of Life.
Dying and Rising with Christ
"What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." – Romans 6:1-4