|Beggar and his dog outside the Natural History Museum. London|
An old rhyme The Twa Corbies speaks of the Martinmas when days are lang and murk. Well that's November in the UK! Long days of cold and mist on the run up to colder weather as winter deepens.
The quarter day celebrates the life of St Martin of Tours (4th century Hungarian saint) who divided his cloak for a dying beggar. More recently the season has been combined with Remembrance Sunday. But traditionally it was the time when all the harvest was in, labourers we're laid off for the winter and a round of bonfires and traditional fairs began, along with feasting.
Many of us have lost this rhythm of the seasons but it's not far beneath the surface. Theres a nip in the air, bonfires are lit, the garden is cleared, the greenhouse emptied and we begin to plan for Christmas and even Spring by planting bulbs. It's this rhythm that gives a structure to our lives and hope at dark times.
As I get older these simple structures help to give meaning and purpose. The days are lang and murk but better seasons are not far off, discernible in our planning now.
In bitterly cold winter beggars deserve our kindness. Its no accident there are so many stories in the gospels of Jesus encounters with beggars. Interestingly he is never judgemental.
At such times as this we need more kindness and charity, to give not just to beggars but to build community and society where it has been eroded and forgotten. It's good to remember St Martin and that dark times always pass.