Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

The end of summer - the liturgy of the seasons in Australia

By Sarah Flynn-O'Dea - posted Friday, 26 April 2024

The weather broke this week in Queensland. I have noticed this pattern for many years. In this subtropical clime, there is a tail to the hot season, I think of it as the scorpion tail, as summer's end attenuates through March to Easter, the heat returns for one uncomfortable last blast. For many years over the last decade this has been a distinctly hot-wet season. Indeed, the rain has barely stopped since Christmas making plans for reproducing the endless beach time and fun in the sun decidely unachieveable. But then this week, literally overnight, the wind blew, all trace of moisture was resoundingly vacated from the heavens and a clear, bright, mercifully sunny disposition descended upon us from on high.

Why the weather ramble? A little off topic? Well as a trained ecologist, (my training in the not so great books does come in handy at times), we were taught about deciduous trees losing their leaves as a stress response. When conditions are too stressful, they drop leaves. In the north of Australia, this is not the 'winter' (yes we use the term loosely), but the Summer. It got me to thinking; Summer is to the subtropics as Winter is to the temperate zones. Summer to us is not summer to Europeans. Summer to us is stressful, not without its pleasures, but growing veggies and coping with weather extremes can be a real endurance. Hard on the old and young, requiring much planning and safety considerations. Much like what we have seen growing up from European and North American media, the hardships of snow storms and dangerous ice and cold, can only be extrapolated to our experiences of heat.

The liturgy of life therefore carries interesting differences as well as similarities. For example, Easter oft marks a pleasant seasonal shift of planting seeds, a relief from extremes of heat and tropical downpours that make growing impossible. It is not spring, yet it is a time for new life.


What has this to do with Classical education?

Well it is my strong conviction that with more potential than any other cultural movement at present, Classical education in the Liberal Arts Tradition, calls us to be present in our land in our time. There is a curious and delightful whimsy in this, that as we uphold the stories of human flourishing and development through the Western tradition, we are enlivened. We are implicated in that story, that is how the Grand narrative operates. Therefore, it is encumbent upon us now in Australia, as we delight in a tradition that is characterised by its kinship with people and place throughout history, that we lift our heads from our living literature to the living creation around us. The natural environment of this land has its story and influence on our own chapter in the Grand Narrative.

Non-indigenous authors and artists have been crafting and grafting the Australian experience, the Logos Australis into the great tradition for the past two hundred years and increasingly the rich tapestry of indigenous tradition has been embraced and recognised as essential to this project also. It is nowhere else more obvious, this need for authenticity of expression and culture than when we consider the seasons and the seasonal calendar, even the Christian festivals.

As my faith journey deepened this past advent I noticed for the first time an utter intolerance toward the 'Winter Wonderland' songs. As my faith journey deepens it seeks greater authenticity of expression. Its as if I want to worship in spirit and in truth, which is just not going to happen if all my cultural cues are foregin. Its not that I am anti-European, I just cannot relate. It sounds lovely, but I 've never even seen or touched snow and the imagery recorded in the Eurocentric view is so incredibly foreign as to be farcical and almost an isult. On Christmas Day my experience as mother, wife and host is melting in perspiration in a hot crowded kitchen, the desperate search for ice in the freezer, praying that the cream won't liquify and dribble off the side of my Pavlova before I serve dessert, competition for some space in front of the fan, the blessed relief of a swim in the afternoon, all the while listening to Buble and Crosby croon about snow and staying warm. Its become salt in the wound of trials of European tradition in an Australian Summer. In recent years, we have come to enjoy listening to south American Cuban salsa music and cold meats and seafood as more authentically respectful of our particular Christmas experience.

Whilst I want to be honest here, I do not want to be activist against tradition. I do want to reclaim a legitimate conversation about cultural identity, away from the kind of disdainful decolonisation discourse that leaves many who are respectful of tradition in an uncomfortable polarised position. Whilst, I have had it up to my eyeballs with White Christmas and to a lesser extent bunnies (who can be mad at a bunny?) and Spring-filled Easters, I see opportunity from first principles to reimagine, to actively participate in cultural development within the Classical Liberal Arts tradition, because this is its nature.

In the year 30AD Jerusalem was a long way from Rome. Briton was the other side of the world and the Americas were an unknown alien planet. Yet look how, over time Christian culture and its education systems, appropriated and synthesised the cultural exports from the Near East and Mediterranean? As Augustine phrased it, pillaged the Egyptian gold. Mythology, philosophy, science and civil structures were taught and used to colonise Northern Europe and beyond. Whilst colonisation is a dirty word today, it cannot be avoided that the exportation of culture occurred and in the case of Christendom brought much that was objectively good. Nevertheless, over time it was the way of things, for the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian ideas to be interpreted and synthesised into local context. Representations of biblical narratives and Christ reflected very non-near Eastern flavour, with blond, blue-eyed characters and medieval apparel. Mythology indigenous to new lands were integrated and reinterpreted through the culture of Christ, the Arthurian legends, Beowulf, and norse mythology are some key examples. Into the 1700's the establishment of the United States has given rise to an entirely new brand of the tradition that has deftly integrated it with the story of that place and its people.


Although today much of this diversity is bunched together under the misnomer of 'White Western Imperialism', it belies the wonderful cultural dynamism, living culture that occurred as new people's encountered the ideas of the logos, the beautiful, true and good, the living God in their stories and natural environment.

Back to Australia and my musings on our own liturgy of the seasons and the wider issue of cultural identity. It is my firm belief that a true renaissance of the Liberal Arts tradition and its accompanying life-giving cultural outcomes in Australia, is contingent upon its people, us, taking responsibility for an authentic, contemplative and poetic interpretation of its principles. This means we need to do our homework in understanding on what basis those in the middle ages and enlightenment engaged with and appropriated the tradition. It also means agency and initiative. No one is going to come and hand us a classical curriculum of Australian stories, art, mythology or natural philosophy or music, it is up to us to cultivate our poetic art and cultural identity. To contemplate the seasons and how they express the logos in our lived exprience. To engage with indigenous culture and mythology and find the logos there, for He is there all across the wide brown land. To dig through the colonial goldfields and celebrate as we strike it rich with the Beautiful, True and Good that has been created already; and to cultivate new art, syntehsise culture and express identity as we find ourselves, through these liberating arts, sovereign humans in our own time and place.

So here is, to the end of Summer! the new season, relief at hand,
from endless heat, relentless rain and devouring insects in my veggie garden.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All

This article was first puhblished on Logos Australis.

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

3 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Sarah Flynn-O'Dea is a Queensland teacher and the founder of Logos Australis.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Sarah Flynn-O'Dea

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 3 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy