Grow A Garden, That You May Know God

By Theodore Shoebat

“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” (Genesis 2:7)

From the earth we came, and from the earth do we receive our sustenance. Creatures of wood, rooted into this fecund earth, have veins within their bodies that draw forth from the soils of that from which we were made, the nourishing elements that lie so plentifully within the dirt, and they flow through unseen streams to the leaves of the wood, and shoot forth flowers of various hues that grab the attention of pollinating bees, and once their pedals fall out of their ovules does fruit spring forth, ready to be picked by the farmer’s hand, ready to be consumed by the hungry creations of clay, ready to give of itself for the lives of others. In nature is the whole of life explained, in nature does one see the full story of divine love, in nature does one find God.

Mankind, weak and transient, is made of clay; and so the Hope of mankind was incarnated into clay, to be sacrificed on wood as the fruit is sacrificed from the blooming wood. Christ became Man, and in being incarnated within nature, He became the fulfilling image of the sublime realities of sacrifice that one can recognize in nature. On the life giving wood of the Cross, with death nailed upon it — coarse and meager, naked and abandoned —  does humanity find the Fruit of Salvation, awakening from death in the spring of hope. Rooted wood, in the cold and foggy winter, humble and denuded from her leaves, left in the bitter cold, awakens in the spring  and blooms forth life giving fruit. As Christ was suspended from a wooden cross, and gave life to humanity, so the living wood of trees has hanging on their branches life giving fruit. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made (Romans 1:20).

What a remarkable thing it truly is, that man finds his life in wood and blood. From wood, he finds the fruit that sustains his body, from animals slaughtered for our sakes, we find that meat that sustains us. So it is in the salvation of the soul: on the wooden Cross we find our salvation, in the Blood of the Lamb our redemption. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. (Luke 1:42) Mary is analogized as a tree, the flower signifying her womb. Christ is represented as a fruit, growing in the flower — the womb — of the Virgin Mary. From being nurtured in the flower of the holy Virgin, Christ was later suspended from the wood of the Cross. There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots. (Isaiah 11:1) As St. Bernard of Clairvaux explained this verse: “The rod symbolized the Virgin and the blossom the virgin birth.” (St. Bernard, Homilies in Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Homily ii.5)   

The flower blooms in spring, the tree goes to sleep in the fall, only to reawaken in the following spring; So Christ was born through the blossom of Mary, and hung on the dead wood of the Cross, only to resurrect from death and be the fruit of life. And is it not amazing that on the spring of Christ’s Resurrection, the first to behold that Holy Fruit was the Flower that bore Him? It was to Mary and Mary Magdalen that Christ, after awakening from the tomb, declared “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. (Matthew 28:5) The farmer cultivates his trees so that it may bear flowers, so that the flowers may bear fruit. The winter comes and the trees go dormant. But in the advent of spring, he spots a flower blooming from a node on a branch. This may bring to us a paralleled image to the story of Mary. She was the tree and her womb the flower that held the Fruit of Life, Christ.

On the wood of the Cross, Christ died, just as fruit will die on the tree. His mother and disciples thought Christ dead, but the flower of hope was manifest and this was beheld by Mary — that tree that bore the Fruit, that is, the Salvation of humanity. Mary tells the disciples of Christ’s Resurrection; it is as though she is extending her hands holding up the Fruit of Salvation, as the tree extends her branches to us creatures of clay. God gave us every good fruit to eat, but Adam, acquiescing to the insidious vanity of Eve, ate the forbidden fruit. Mary combat and reverses all of the evils of Eve, and brings Adam back to the fruit he was suppose to enjoy, the Fruit of her womb. “Instead of the tree of death,” writes St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “she offers a taste of life; in place of the poisonous fruit of bitterness she holds out to you the sweetness of eternity’s fruit.” (St. Bernard, Homilies in Praise of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Homily ii.3)   

A fruit may die on the tree, but the seed lives, and from that seed will come other trees, and from those trees many fruit. In the words of the Apostle, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies. (Corinthians 15:36) In all this is the message of sacrifice, in all this is an illustration of the life of Christ. Birth, life, death, resurrection and multiplying. From the death and resurrection of Christ, came so many disciples willing to spread the light of God sacrifice themselves for the cause of love. Man finds his salvation in wood. He finds his fruit hanging from wood; he feeds the fire that warms him with wood; he finds his refuge in a home of wood; he saved himself from the Deluge through the wooden ark, and so he finds his salvation on a wooden cross.   

The fruit bearing plant must be rooted in the soil for it to bear fruit, so a man’s soul must be rooted in the spiritual for it to bear fruit. A tree and a plant must be watered, just as the soul must have the washing of water by the word (Ephesians 5:26). With this are we reminded of that Pslam that says: I am like a green olive tree in the house of God (Psalm 52:8). Weeds grow like legions and are more in number than good and edible plants, just as evil people are more frequent than righteous people. And while weeds will grow easily in the shade, plants which grow fruit need the rays of the sun to thrive, just as the wicked reject the light of God, but those who are after the mind of God seek His light. In the words of the Serbian Orthodox mystic Nikolai Velimirovich: “A tree must be exposed to the light and warmth of the sun in order to flourish and bear fruit — a symbol again. For the soul too must be lightened and warmed by God, the Sun of eternal righteousness.” (Velimirovich, The Universe as Symbols and Signs, ch. v, 3)   

By interacting with nature, we see the realities of sacrifice manifested. Grow a garden, that you may know God.