A whole day outside

by Blue Heron

A whole day outside in the yard; moving gravel, transplanting flowers, recutting the border of a garden. Around noontime, my back was trying to get a word in edgewise about maybe taking it easy. I was having too much fun to give heed. So after lunch I mowed half the lawn, moved rocks, washed the deck. I have no regrets, even though I move about slowly in the evening hours.

The newly opened leaves in June unravel in such delicate greens. The vegetables planted in tidy rows, standing tall and reaching into the sunlight. First fruits are still more than a month away, but if I didn’t know better, I would say they look happy as they await a future harvest.

What a wonder that green things can take in the light form the sun and convert it to food. is it any wonder that I make the analogy to Jesus the Son as the only real source of my own nourishment? If I could just plant myself each morning, in the awareness of His presence. Just take it in like sunlight, instead of running around with anxiety trying to “make food” on my own; fill in spaces that only He can satisfy.

Evening is approaching, birds are swooping around the yard, singing some final evening choruses. A chipmunk sprints across the yard with his tail straight up in the air. Oh God, may my mouth open with your praise at this close of the day. May I exhale with thankful heart, having inhaled the joys of Your creation.

Composting

by Sister Spero

I’m learning about composting, and it’s reminding me about how God works with us to build spiritual maturity. The composter takes kitchen scraps, discarded hair, shredded newspaper, lawn clippings, (and more!),  and lets them sit together, sometimes passively (which takes longer), and sometimes aggressively—using plenty of rotation and heat—to break down the discards (which most of us send to the dump) into soil-enriching organic matter that will make a garden thrive.

God does the same thing. He chooses “the lowly and despised things of this world” (1 Corinthians 1:28).  He takes our weaknesses, our failures, the parts we want to hide, and transforms them into something precious. Sometimes, as in composting, it’s the “cold method”—our lives are proceeding smoothly with little interference. At other times (speeding up the process), heat and turbulence may make us feel like we’re living in the middle of a revolving compost bin. But it’s okay. Either way, we are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus, who is love, and, eventually, all around us will thrive.

Simple Beauty

by Sr. Spero

In a world called to beauty, we who have been given responsibility for creation are also responsible for the beauty of the world, of our own lives, and of each other’s lives.
—Enzo Bianchi, Echoes of the Word, Paraclete Press

 
Reading this quote from Enzo Bianchi, I immediately thought of a vegetable garden in San Gimignano, Italy. The vegetables were as you would expect—tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant—but the layout of the garden, and the obvious care given to each plant, made it a work of art. No wonder—the garden was tended by several monks of the Boze Community, which was founded by Enzo Bianchi.  A simple vegetable garden expressed beauty to all who passed by. And I suspect it also reflected the beauty and simplicity of their lives.

AerialGarden

Pruning

By Sr. Spero

Anyone who grows roses knows that the way to get beautiful roses is to prune mercilessly. I tested this out recently, but not on purpose. I was deadheading and got carried away. It wasn’t the right time to prune, but I turned a beautiful bush into a bunch of sticks. So I was more cautious with the second one, leaving as much as I could. Now, several weeks later, the first one is budding, and the second has nothing but leaves. There’s a lesson here. Deep pruning gets results. And if you feel like God is taking you through some deep pruning, don’t worry. He’s growing roses.

Roses

Picking

By Sr. Spero

I picked some zucchini from the garden this morning. As I decided which squash to pick and which to let grow for another day, I realized that God is the great gardener. Sometimes it’s best to pick zucchini small for the best flavor. But sometimes a larger squash is better for soup or bread. And sometimes it’s best not to pick one at all, so the seeds can mature for the next crop. For me, it’s a matter of trust. Do I trust God enough to believe that when I’m picked I’m ready? Or if I’m not picked, do I trust that he might have some other plan in mind?

Zucchini

Farewell to a Fellow Traveler

by Sunset Septuagint 

Yesterday was the funeral celebration of one of our Clergy whose family had moved to the community 40 years ago.

Ed was a farmer at heart and he loved taking care of the vegetables, flowers (roses were his specialty), and all the animals. One of the hymns sung during the liturgy, “In the Garden” (based on the scripture Genesis 3:8), says it all for Ed: “And they heard the voice of the Lord walking in the garden….”

One of the post-funeral traditions we hold dear is going to the cemetery after the funeral, to place our loved one in the ground. Each person takes a shovel full of dirt to lay on the coffin. The Community family takes care of the body from the moment of death — keeping vigil by the coffin — to the laying of the sod over the coffin when the last shovel full of earth has been laid.

Another custom, while we are filling the grave, is to share any remembrances of our loved one. All ages enter in — from the 10-year-old who remembered Uncle Ed always giving the children lollipops every Sunday, to a landscaping manager who got his first love of landscaping from Ed, to the fellow community member who remembered when he was struggling spiritually being told by Ed, “Come into my office (which was under a shade tree) and let’s talk.”

What a wonderful way to say goodbye to a fellow traveler on the road to our eternal home!

GardenEdGardenZinsGardenToms

Choosing Beauty

By Sister Spero

God created flowers. Each species, fully developed, is beautiful. A flower cannot choose its own beauty. It begins with the seed, containing the nature of the parent plant. If the seed drops, or is placed, in soil with the right nutrients, it will grow. Development depends on water, good soil, and protection from predators. A plant cannot arrange this on its own. It cannot make itself produce flowers.

We are the same, but, unlike flowers, we can choose our own beauty. (I’m not thinking of make-up and exercise). We can cultivate spiritual beauty. We can ask for living water (John 4:14), avoid rocks and thorns (Matthew 13), and protect ourselves from predators. For me, the predators are stray thoughts that I can choose to embrace or ignore.

I cannot choose what type of flower I am to become, but I can be a co-worker with God in his garden—to blossom into the person God originally created me to be.

Rose - Choosing Beauty

Vine Support

By Melodious Monk

I’m still very much a novice gardener and one plant I’m still scared of is the vaunted, precious, glorious gem of the summer crops – the vine ripened tomato! Perhaps I’m still haunted by the tomato plants that unexpectedly caught disease last summer and died before producing fruits, but I still find myself delicately reverencing the great tomatoes, afraid that too much action (pruning, fertilizer, or water) or not enough of the same will result in a failure to produce fruit at the end of the summer.

Tomato signOne particular tomato plant is teaching me a lesson this August. It’s a tall tomato plant at the front of staked row, one that has a stout 8 foot stake to climb, and, even with faithful succoring, it has grown well above this height. The stalk is a sturdy with a straight trunk, about an inch or more thick in places. After a recent heavy wind storm, a tall main branch was folded in half at about 4 feet above ground. I found it the next morning, nearly broken in half, collapsed to the ground. Instantly the anxiety began to rise, my fears were coming true: here we are in August and the entire growing season is going to be for naught! I was about to cut off the large sprawling branch, to throw in the brush pile and quickly hide the shame I was starting to feel of ruining this beautiful plant. I should have tied it up better, maybe added another stake, I’m thought to myself.

I assumed the branch had no chance of survival, since only a paper thin outer strand was keeping it connected to the rest of the plant. As I took hold of the branch and tugged, it remained surprisingly, but solidly, fixed on the main vine of the plant. I’d heard that as long as part of the branch is still connected to the main trunk, it’s possible for the branch to still get nutrients, to heal and keep living. With not much to lose, I figure why not try an experiment. I grabbed a flat 6 in piece of wood that was lying on the ground nearby and tied a splint along the stem. Surprisingly the branch held even with the twisting and bending to move it back upright, and with a few extra supports tied to the tomato-heavy top, the branch felt relatively secure. The next day it was still standing, still green, and a week later you’d never know it had been within a tinsel thread of its life.

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.” In dark, doubt filled moments, we must remember that no matter what storm may cause us to fall off the vine, we always have the choice to reconnect even the smallest thread to the main vine, and continue on our path towards producing good fruit–and our healing.

Tomatoes

Our Source of Life

By Sr. Nun Other

While weeding our vegetable garden at the Community of Jesus, I was amazed — well, maybe dismayed — at the tenacious strength of those wily weeds. Clearing a path was hard work, but it got me thinking about “roots” and multiple ways we use the word.

As a noun, roots attach a plant to the ground and convey water and nourishment. They’re a source of life, established deeply and firmly. A second definition for root is “a semantic unit,” the part of a word after all prefixes and suffixes are removed. It’s also a verb: to root for a team or an individual is to lend support and encourage enthusiastically.

Perhaps it’s a Pennsylvania phenomenon — or a well-taught civics class — but when I meet someone from my home state, I connect. “You’re from Pennsylvania? Which part? Pittsburgh? No kidding.” And then we’re apt to converse in a language resembling English, but native to Western Pennsylvanians, words such as chipped chopped ham, city chicken and “redd up” a room. These are my roots by birth and they bring life through remembrance, forming part of who I am. We also put down spiritual roots, and there are several Biblical verses that employ the metaphor. In Ephesians 3:17, the Apostle Paul speaks of being rooted and grounded in Christ, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.” Just imagine! Jesus is that love, our source of life, and stands with us when all pretenses are removed.

The Community of Jesus

 

Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Sr. Fidelis

Fruits of the earth

Tuesday’s Vespers hymn at the Community of Jesus reminds us of the third day of Creation, where God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” “Let the earth put forth vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, upon the earth.” (Gen. 1:9, 11).

Clothed in poetic imagery, this hymn reminds us that all the beauty that surrounds us came from the hand of God, and was always His intent to bless us. The texts to these hymns can easily be used as prayers of gratitude and repentance!

O great creator of the earth, you who delivering the land from the troublesome beating of the water, have given the immovable earth,

That, bringing forth suitable bud, beautiful things in golden-colored flowers, it might present rich things as fruit, and render pleasant food.

Cleanse the wounds of a scorched soul with the freshness of grace, that it may wash away its deeds with tears, and destroy wrong impulses.

Let it comply with your commands; may it approach no evil; let it rejoice to be filled with good things, and never know the work of death.

Grant this, O most loving Father, and you, the only One equal to the Father, with the Spirit, the Paraclete, who reigns through every age. Amen.
The Community of Jesus