Week of October 30, 2022

A Note From Fr. Timothy

“Autumn” vs. “Fall”

It is somewhat interesting to note that while the seasons of spring, summer, and winter generally only have the one term designating their season, there are two common and acceptable terms for the season of “fall” or “autumn” in the English language. The word “fall”, as a term for the season, first appears in the 1500s in likely reference to the falling of leaves at that time of year. “Autumn” is considered the older term, dating to at least the 1300s, with confirmed usage in both Chaucer and Shakespeare, but only replaced “fall” (or the older “harvest season”) as the more popular term in the 1600s. “Autumn” continues to be the more common term in most English-speaking countries, whereas in the United States “fall” is far more common (though both are acceptable).

Personally, while I think the term “autumn” might seem more formal, I prefer the usage of “fall” for a couple reasons. First, it synergizes better with “spring”. The season of spring originally referred to “the spring of the leaf” (as the leaf springs from the bud). Fall then should refer to “the fall of the leaf”. Spring and fall make sense together, where spring and autumn do not.

Spring and Fall is also the title of one of my favorite poems by the priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. An English priest, he used the American term for autumn because of its theological and spiritual connection with the Fall of Man. After the Original Sin of Adam and Eve, they were expelled from the Garden of Eden. They went from a season of growth and plenty to a much harsher and more difficult reality.

Fall (the season) can be a reminder for each of us that we are still experiencing the effects of the (biblical) Fall and that Original Sin. As we might experience the sorrow of seeing the beauty of the leaves fall to the ground and leave the once lovely trees bare, so we might grieve at the loss of Eden and the closeness with God that our first parents shared in its peaceful enclosure. As Hopkins evokes in his poem, in grieving over the fall of leaves, it is actually ourselves whom we mourn for – especially the loss of innocence. Yet we must remember too, the hope that we have in the redemption won for us by the promised Savior. God did not abandon us in our sin, but sent his own Son to save us. Even as in the fall we experience a loss, we hold close to the promise of an even greater gift to come in the Resurrection.

Fr. Timothy Gapinski