Last updated on November 27, 2020
Tamaracks cloaked in fiery yellow bring the fall colour parade to an end, standing boldly amid their stripped broad-leaf companions that briefly adorned the hills with tapestries of red, orange, yellow and brown.
Diminishing day length in autumn is the signal for trees to get ready for winter, ready to cast away a dominant part of their beauty, their leafy splendour.
Veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaves, gradually get closed off by an abscission layer of cork cells forming at the base of each leaf. Slowly at first, then more rapidly, water and minerals are cut off until it falls.
Also happening is the reduction of green chlorophyll in each leaf. Gradually we see its hidden beauty of yellow, orange, and red.
All this colour falling is a harsh reality of rejecting and abandoning and dying. Yet in this annual event, an interior beauty appears, capturing our eyes and holding us in awe.
This beauty is one of the ways creation sings praise to God, who created everything. Trees of earth’s temperate forests, in their annual ascetic routine, praise their Maker with a display of colour that at the same time causes us to kneel in wonder and thank Almighty God, the worker of wonders.
Autumn trees call us to prepare too. When the air cools, lakes and rivers chill our bones, and winds snatch once vibrant leaves with icy hands, we know November is coming and with it a time to cast away what is unnecessary and peripheral, those golden leaves we cling to or cling to us. It’s our time to remember that we too must abandon ourselves even to death.
It’s time to enter the austerity of November with stark forests that beckon with gestures of leafless branches, whispering, “Enter November’s silence. Enter the heart of Christ, the great and beautiful silence of Jesus’ heart where Love will touch you and soothe your wounds of sin to unite them with His wounds from the cross that healed you and set you free.”
Love is our yearning, our deepest, relentless yearning and November the doorway that leads us to the birth of Love, who satiates our thirst.
Enter With The Saints
The Church carries us into November with the feast of All Saints, the great Communion of Saints. Their illuminated, heavenly presence like the light from a Cathedral dome floods the earth, inspiring us to look to Jesus, who is always drawing us toward a heroic life of love.
With the help of the saints, let’s enter the austerity of the month with its barren trees surrounding us, calling us to join in their still stance, before the Almighty. With the help of November winds, even a walk in a November rain we can turn to Jesus with a deep listening heart.
I remember my walks many years ago along Toronto’s cold November sidewalks covered by leafless, century-old chestnuts, beeches and maples. God’s loving care surrounded me on the way to adoration where I could just be alone with the One who holds me, loves me, and takes me toward eternity with him.
This year on Bennett Lake bordering Cana Colony, the family retreat hosted by Madonna House Apostolate, I rowed across to the Tamaracks to do some fishing with Darrin Prowse, MH staff member and long time friend. Rarely am I on the water in something other than a kayak and never am I fishing. I just got the urge to join him in what he loves and is very good at.
We each had a boat to row, to troll for bass or pickerel. I had no expectation of landing one, only the usual anticipation of having a meal from his usual skill. I just loved being out there in a new way.
The austerity, beauty and silence stirred in me a prayerful excitement of November, approaching. A cold wind under dark, cloudy skies intensified my longing for God. Flaming Tamaracks nestled humbly, yet boldly beneath hills of barren trees created a profound interior silence. And in that silence prayer rose spontaneously in longing whispers to the One who has loved me.
Suddenly, my fishing rod pulled away from my feet holding it against the boat seat. Grabbing it made me realize I had a decent catch. Excited, yet stiil wondering if I snagged weeds, I gradually reeled in a two bound smallmouth bass. For me to catch a fish while Darrin goes fishless is something akin to me, at 68 years, slipping a puck past Maple Leaf goalie Frederic Anderson on a shoot out. Could it have any connection with our parish priest, Fr Justin Bertrand, celebrating Mass today for my intentions?
That night I thought about November’s arrival in two days, of the cold, stark silence on Bennet Lake, a prelude to a month of deep prayer.
It seemed like St. Teresa of Calcutta reminded me of her words she spoke as Mother Teresa:
If we really want to pray we must learn to listen, for in the silence of the heart God speaks…
When it is difficult to pray we must help ourselves to do so. The first means to use is silence, for souls of prayer are souls of great silence. We cannot put ourselves directly in the presence of God if we do not practice internal and external silence.
God is the friend of silence.
Let us adore Jesus in our hearts, who spent thirty years out of thirty-three in silence… who often retired alone to spend the night on a mountain in silence…
Let us adore Jesus in the Eucharistic silence.
We need to find God and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. See how nature, the trees, the flowers, the grass grow in perfect silence-see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence…”
November is here, providing a needed austere surrounding in which to cast off the hustle of our minds like leaves from silent trees.
After resting in the Eucharistic Silence with Jesus, try a walk in a park, a stroll by a shoreline, or a drive alone to a remote forest where you can stand still to read a Psalm, telling the one who loves you:
I lift my eyes to the mountains:
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.