A Garden of Delight

Pixabay.com, CCO

To renew our wearied heart, we often head outdoors to be in a garden or wander a woodland park. If we are fortunate enough to live near an arboretum or commercial greenhouse, we can experience, literally, a breath of fresh air from the oxygen emitted by the hot-house plants.

I’ve been in love with plants since childhood. My first memory is of lying on the grass nose-to-petal with yellow creeping buttercup. My four-year-old hands were trying to pluck a tiny budding stem when I discovered the ground a few inches away moved. Pulling and crawling along, I dug tiny fingers into the soil until I had several chains of little plants.

Father was not pleased by what my curiosity had done to the yard.

Through the fractured and hormonal times of adolescence, I would run to the quiet of nature. There I could find creation’s orderliness un-constricted. It was comforting to know that the trees would continue to grow and seeds continue to sprout.

The art and beauty of landscape architecture nourished in me a desire to create prayer and memorial gardens, places where drawing closer to God was available beyond the pew and allowed an opening for the Holy Spirit to move in the heart of someone longing for Jesus.

It doesn’t matter the season or the latitude we live in, in God’s creation we find an ever-present way to both refresh and ground our spirit.

Our Lord speaks to us in the Bible with parables of nature. It was in The Four Waters[1] that St. Teresa of Avila used gardening analogies and set forth stages of spiritual development by depicting the different stages or grades of a life in prayer in metaphorical terms taken from watering a garden. Her insightful description of spiritual development is that God plants the garden which is irrigated in different ways through prayer.

Pixabay.com, CCO

A favorite quote by St. Teresa offers a way we can attend to our soul. She wrote “A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…[2]” Her words are the theme of this blog.

We read in Isaiah 66:1-2 the Lord asking, what can you build for me as a resting place—I made all things. We can build for Our Lord one thing, a resting place in our souls—a garden pleasing to the Lord.

In creating a garden of the soul, like earthly gardens, we pull out the weeds, keep things pruned, and remove old seed heads so that new flowers come forth. We remove the debris that makes it hard to know what is truly there, and in so doing we allow new seeds to sprout.

Many of the Bible parables speak of nature. There is a godly reason for that; we were created for a garden, we were created agrarian. The imagery is easy for us to understand; it is an experience of love, a memory of paradise.

There is a sense of homing with nature, a restoration of peace in remembering that first garden, created for our delight. I am refreshed often as I encounter the Holy in all the growing spaces; it is a greening, a growing of the soul.

What is encountered to create a garden in my soul, is what I will offer to you. From the seeds planted in the oratory, to their growth in the Adoration chapel, I pray my musings will bear some small fruit for God’s own profit. Here you will read stories and thoughts of finding the Creator in his creation, plants that can be used for spiritually themed gardens and how to grow them, and like a farmer’s almanac little bits of information unearthed from saints and seasons decades ago…and maybe a recipe or two (I love making soups!)

I hope you will visit again and thank you for stopping by.

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Decompressing; Photos in a Garden

Aleteia pro life gardenIt’s been all too much. We’ve heard, “The gates of hell will not prevail…” but Satan is sure having a go at it during this Year of Mercy! So much hate, intolerance, and violence.

A cartoon making the rounds on social media says, “My desire to be well informed is at odds with my desire to remain sane.” After reading that I stepped away from the computer, took my rosary and camera, and heading into the garden to rest my weary heart in the company of the Creator.

Here are a few of the photos that I took (sorry if they seem a bit grainy). Rest your eyes a moment, take a deep breath and pray, Come Holy Spirit, come now, come as you wish.

Trumpet Vine

Trumpet Vine

asiatic lilies

Asiatic Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Mouse Ears Hosta

Mouse Ears Hosta

Golden Splendor Lily

Golden Splendor Lily

Pansies

Pansies

Annabelle Hydrangea

Annabelle Hydrangea

Daylily

Daylily

I hope these images may have softened the anguish, we’re all feeling it.

A favorite quote from St. Teresa of Avila helps me to realign when my thoughts tip towards despair.

A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight…”

Let us all orient ourselves to becoming that garden, striving to bloom among pestilence and weeds.

If you’re inclined, there are some powerful and focused prayers from Elizabeth Scalia here and here.

Images by Margaret Rose Realy, Obl OSB. All rights reserved.

 

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Four Waters of the Soul

Image morguefile.com

“A beginner must think of herself as one setting out to make a garden in which her Beloved Lord is to take his delight[1]

St. Teresa of Avila was a Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic who was an affectionate extrovert of great joy and determination. By her own admission, she tells of her exploits as a teenager with a great attraction to fashion, perfume, and boys! Her poor widowed father in exasperation and fear for her virtue sent her to an Augustinian nunnery, and once there her life found a different kind of fertile soil.

Often sick in her early years she did not labor in gardens as required of the other Sisters, but she did convalesce in them and found them a source of meditation and insight. It wasn’t until she was around forty and having regained her health that her spiritual development really began to take root and at forty-seven she began writing about the practice of prayer.

Part of her early writings on spiritual doctrine depicts different stages or grades of a life in prayer in metaphorical terms taken from watering a garden, known as The Four Waters. The water being how God reaches the soul and our soul is the garden to be grown for his delight. A very simple description of prayer is that God plants the garden that we grow through prayer which is equated with different ways of irrigation:

  • We draw the water from a well using a rope and then carry the water to our garden; this is an active form of praying, using one’s faculties and reaping what benefits one can through ones own efforts. We work at this and with diligence unless what God had planted withers and dies.
  • Next, to simplify the flow a water-wheel is used which has dippers. As the wheel turns the water is poured into a trough that hydrates our garden. St. Teresa describes this stage as a point when the faculties of the soul begin to recollect itself, bordering on the supernatural, and this enjoyment brings greater delight. Here we have learned to increase the flow of prayer and are aware of our growing with God.
  • The flow of irrigation is then expanded by means of a stream. This form of prayer is more mystical, requiring little human effort with all the faculties focused on God. At this third way of watering the garden of our souls, we have a flow of prayer that moves steadily throughout our day. We can dip into the stream when needed to water an area of our garden that the Holy Spirit has brought to our attention.
  • In the final method of watering our garden we accept the rain God sends without our own effort. This is called the Prayer of Union and is totally infused by God, a mystical action taking place in varying degrees. It is the ecstasy of prayer, those brief and unexpected moments when the beauty of our garden is so pleasing to God that our senses are overwhelmed as God rains upon us to cool our fervor and enhance the flowering soul.

In her book, The Way of Perfection, St. Teresa gives a much more expansive and beautiful explanation of the gardens of our souls.


[1] Teresa of Avila, The Book of my Life, Part Two, The Four Waters. There are many translations available on St. Teresa’s writings.