by Selah Seeker
Those words are part of a mission statement on a bronze plaque I pass daily on the wall of the dorm where I am staying for a month in Chicago. Elements Theatre Company is studying for the next several weeks, expanding our repertoire to include the works of Henrik Ibsen and staying at Loyola University. What a gift! We who daily embrace all things Benedictine are enjoying the hospitality of this Jesuit institution as we seek to expand our understanding of Ibsen’s canon and learn new skills – skills that on this educational retreat (following previous trips to London and NYC) include stage combat – wow! Can’t wait for the swords and shields! I’ll keep you posted as the month progresses.
David Mallett wrote (and Pete Seeger sang), “Inch by inch, row by row, gonna make this garden grow” to describe the experience of tending a garden. From time to time as I look out past my backyard to the busy Sisters and Brothers as they weed, mulch, till, water and tend this garden, I can’t help humming that folk song which was so popular when I was young. How remarkable is the change since the last time I shared this view with you. I think St. Benedict would be proud of both the Ora and the Labora that has gone in to the transformation as men and women partner with God in the continuing creation he shares with us. I can’t wait for the tomatoes!
My bedroom window looks out on a half acre vegetable garden that the Brothers and Sisters tend. Throughout the spring I have had opportunity to observe from my window (and my back yard) the plowing, tilling, planting, watering, weeding – all the tasks that any garden requires. The early crop that the garden yielded this year was strawberries – a banner year for them. For several weeks the picking went on daily and many of us enjoyed the bumper crop of sweet, succulent berries. Sadly, though, the strawberry season has passed, and now the “farmers” are tilling and weeding and watering other parts of the garden while they wait for the next crops to mature and ripen – tomatoes and green beans and carrots and more. How good of God to give the early “earnest” of the super-abundant strawberry crop…a gift, perhaps, to help us while we wait to see how he will provide for us next?
Cape Cod is a bird watcher’s paradise. Migratory flight patterns bring thousands of species to us regularly, offering even those of us who don’t consider ourselves “birders” opportunities to observe the unusual, the rare, and the beautiful.
I hesitate to note an occasional annoyance with the birds, however. In the spring and early summer they seem to awake at the first hint of light (which for them is between 4:30 and 4:40), fill the trees surrounding my bedroom and its open windows, and announce the arrival of the new day at the top of their voices! Oh, how I wish our schedules matched, for my alarm isn’t set to go off until 6:00; but, really, how can one complain when they are just doing their job, the one God gave them? By the time I got to church on Sunday, the flocks had dispersed and the morning symphony had ceased. There remained just one lone sparrow singing from the limestone facade of the Chapter House.
The late afternoon sun on the grape vines caught my eye. The vines somehow looked “contented” – contented just to be vines basking in the afternoon sun. Clearly this was a “no stress” zone. They weren’t worrying about a thing – not about how much fruit they would produce, or if they would produce more than the vine to the left or the right. They weren’t worrying about having enough water or whether the vine dresser was happy with them. No, they appeared to be living in peace, thriving in the warm sunshine. “Nice work, if you can get it”, I thought to myself. Perhaps we should all apply to be vines…
“Be still, and know that I am God.” The voice that the psalmist heard long ago entreats me today to the same peace. My early morning walk to the church over the white shell path seemed to shatter the silence with each crunchy footfall, until I dared to stop and listen more closely. When my body came to stillness – followed a moment later by my mind and spirit which were already reaching ahead into a day full of challenges – He was already there, preceding me, waiting for me. In that moment of stillness, he invited me to join the music that had already begun – the voices of the birds, the drip, drip, drip of the dew from the slate roof feeding the soft green earth beneath, the soft whisper of the wind. And then came his assurance given to Julian, “I shall make well all that is not well.” Oh! How I crave the grace to carry this knowledge in my spirit all day!
We bring him simple elements of bread and wine, gifts of the earth and the work of our hands.
We offer him these gifts, but when they come back to us from the altar – when they are placed in our hands and on our lips – they are no longer the same bread and wine.
Now, he offers us his body and his blood so that we can be one with him and one with his Father.
He asks us to love his creation and all his people the way he does.
And because his Spirit now lives within us, we can.