Roses and horse dung

Sep 15th, 2008 | By | Category: Spirituality

“Consider the lilies of the field.”

The evening worship at church last night was contemplative prayer and the “witness” gave us familiar words of Jesus to reflect upon.

The back has been troubling me and I sat awkwardly in the pew contemplating the lilies.

It was no good, lilies wouldn’t do.

Considering lilies brought visions of Orange banners on the 12th July adorned with bright orange blooms or pictures of Easter 1916 and the blood and destruction at the GPO.  Lilies might have been neutral in First Century Palestine, but they can mean all sorts in Ireland.

‘Forget the lilies’, I thought, ‘try flowers instead’.

‘Consider the flowers of the field’.

The tune of ‘Flowers of the Forest’ came to mind; the lament played by a piper to recall the Scottish dead at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.  The lament was followed by thoughts of the song “Green Fields of France”, inspired by the slaughter of the Western Front, which asks if the pipes played the ‘Flowers of the Forest’, and then Joan Baez singing ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’  None of which was really very helpful to peaceful contemplation.

Flowers wouldn’t do at all.

We had young trees planted in our garden in the summer, three white birches.  They seemed much better suited to quiet reflection.

Consider the white birches of the field? Well, consider the white birch outside my window.  It’s very thin and frail and I asked the gardener should it not have a stake alongside it.

“No”, he said, “it will bend in the wind and that will drive the roots deep”.  A comment which had within it the seeds of a sermon, one about adversity creating depth.

But it wasn’t the picture of the tree swaying in the wind that came to mind, it was the picture of the bag of dried farmyard manure the gardener dug into the soil before planting the tree.  Maybe growth always comes through pushing through the waste and decay all around, maybe even the best flowers come from the greatest waste.

Coming home, I wondered whether Jesus would have ever seen thing that way;  I suspect not, but it did suggest that there might be a purpose even in the rubbish things of life.

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  1. Sorry you had so much trouble with the thoughts of the lilies. I thought that with the lilies in the Church it would have been quite visual for everyone. I did mention about the trees and the strength and solidness of them. I am sure Jesus who lived at the time he did and in the place that he did was very well versed in the ways of the land. What else would they have had then to promote growth but what was natural and available. I wonder if you would have had such trouble with your thoughts if D. F. had led the Contemplation!!!

  2. Hi Barbara,

    I think the image was a beautiful one – the problem was the listener!
    The contemplation worked though, it helped me get an angle on some of the “rubbish” stuff going on (outside the parish, I hasten to add). I think I would be hopeless on a retreat, every time I let the guard down a whole load of negative stuff comes to mind. One of the pictures I had last night was of a bulb trying to push its way up through an accumulation of dead leaves and litter – if the lilies of the field can look beautiful so effortlessly with so much to grow through, then most of the stuff that annoys me can be overcome.

  3. “A comment which had within it the seeds of a sermon, one about adversity creating depth.”

    I’d love to hear that sermon, Ian – maybe you would consider reproducing it here sometime?

    Sorry to hear the back is playing up again. Not fun.

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