Monday, January 14, 2013
Leavetaking of the Theophany
In the convent where I live, we are blessed with a wonderful array of trees in our cloister and in our garden. Now, in the midst of winter, we are graced with the many oranges and lemons which hang temptingly on the branches. Other fruit trees make themselves known in the fall, but my favorite are the cherry trees. While their blossoms are rivaled in fragrance perhaps by the orange blossoms, the beauty of our garden, blanketed in soft pink and white, to be followed by the bright red of the fresh cherries. In my springtime walks praying the rosary, I cannot help but pick a few cherries along the way, thinking of Our Lady in The Cherry-Tree Carol. Even though the garden had been thick with trees, and making one's way through all the more difficult in the spring, the branches heavy with leaves and fruit, I delighted in the shade, the colors, the smells, the tastes, and the blessed solitude of a walk under the trees.
I say had been thick with trees because recently, through some gardening project, the trees of the garden were quite radically pruned, including, much to my despair, many if not most of the cherry trees. What once was a see of trees and branches now gives way to the open ground, the tall trees cut back to far more modest heights, their branches far fewer. I can easily suppose that this is for some real good. That is, perhaps there were other plants, such as our herbs which we use in the kitchen, that had begun to suffer from the competitive thriving of the trees. Or, perhaps the trees themselves were grown beyond what would be good for them collectively, and so also individually. Perhaps.
All the same, it is hard for me not to feel the loss. Whatever the good, I can know with certainty that my garden walks will not be the same. I can know that the delightful canopy of leaves and blossoms will not be there come the spring to shade my walks, and there will hardly be any cherries to delight my rosary strolls, much less to repeat the cherry pies we baked last year. However much my reason may suggest that this is for the good, that the goods with which I had to part, even without being bad in themselves, could not remain as they were, my imagination and memory part with them only with reluctance.
When Paul urges us to become worthy vessels of honor, to flee youthful lusts and avoid ignorant and foolish disputes, even to avoid quarreling altogether, we might too glibly assent that such a course is to be taken for granted. But is it? Is our moral transformation in light of the Gospel we have received, the new life and faith given to us in our Baptism, so clearly a good for us, here and now, that the kind of good we have known up until now, in our life apart from Christ, is manifestly unfit, unworthy to be held on to?
This is why Jesus warns the Pharisees at his entrance into Jerusalem that they did not know the time of his visitation. Our lives, even when filled with much that is good in itself, can easily become overgrown, needing much pruning to make way for the goods God intends for us to enjoy. The point is not that we have evil in our lives we need to reject, although that is most likely the case. It is also that goods, real and true goods, we have allowed so to capture our imagination and delight that, unless they be cut back, unless they be pruned, we will never know the glories God wills to impart to us.
As we take leave of the Theophany, and with it the Christmas season, will be be prepared for a little pruning? Have we listened to the comfortable and joyous proclamations of the Nativity and Theophany of the Lord such that we can, without regret, let the pruning begin, and so open the way for his glorious entrance into our lives, and so begin to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works he has done, and continues to do to bring us to share in his eternal and unending life?