The Cell Garden

September 5, 2015 | Reflections from some of the nuns

Words from The Heart

We all have what is called a “cell”. The word comes from the Latin “caelum” meaning “heaven”. From this derivation also comes the word “celestial”, which in English seems to refer to objects above the clouds – planets, stars, angels. The purpose of the “cell” in monastic terms is to be a place where the incumbent can pray and set one’s whole being in the direction of that which is beyond and is also present at the same time. It is an essential place for people like us and indeed is an essential place for everyone who wants to live a more centered life.

Daisies Along with that cell here at Jamberoo, we all have a small cell garden, whose ultimate purpose is to aid us in our pursuit of the God who is already with us. In human terms it is an important component of our living. It can be so necessary to have a space where we can see things we have planted growing happily under our care and provides an individual statement about who we are. One of the sisters has a garden full of the family of cacti, she loves them!! Another has a garden of roses for the same reason. I have a bit of everything, each with its own history, having been purloined from somewhere else or having been a cutting from somewhere else!

Last week I finally got an opportunity to get stuck into my garden, something I have wanted to do for a long time. There is a delightful array of little plants in there and in the centre was a large prolifically flowering simple white daisy bush. When nothing else much is growing I can always count on the daisy to give a show of colour. However it had more than taken up its space and was taking over a number of smaller plants who were being swamped and deprived of the sunshine they needed to grow. I got to and severely pruned back the daisy. The little lavender bushes, I could tell were rising up and calling me “blessed”!! Plants I had forgotten about made their bedraggled appearance. Bit by bit the sun returned and the mildew of the lilac tree finally had a chance of drying up. The garden took on a whole new look and I could now see what needed doing and where other plants, yet to be discovered somewhere else, might well find a home!

Cell Garden

It occurred to me that so often our life is like that. There are good things in all our lives and sometimes we let them take over. We let them block out the good of other things happening in our life. Pretty soon we are unable to see anything else in the garden of our life, except this huge prolifically flowering item which is in danger of actually becoming an obstacle to us. Sometimes we can see what that obstacle is, a relationship, a fixation of something external, whatever. Sometimes so caught up in it are we, that it escapes all together. Sometimes it is only the constant pain of frustration, or lack of freedom, or general discontent that gives us a clue that something, good in itself has taken over.

We need never fear though because, with our permission, the Father, that Sacred Gardener of our souls, comes in from time to time and in tune with his design of love for us, takes the clippers and prunes that item back to a more manageable shape. He has even been known on occasions to actually rip the whole thing out. At the time it doesn’t feel good at all and we wonder why it must be so. A “what seemed to be”, perfectly good relationship seems to change or end; a particular course of action which yielded so much good seems to be no longer necessary, a job we have enjoyed and done well is taken from us, even a way of praying which brought us such consolation doesn’t seem to work anymore and so the list goes on.

It seems to me to be a truly good idea to give the Father permission to do whatever he needs to do in the garden of our soul. He knows all about the little things in us that need the light of his love, in order to come to full growth. He knows all about the other people and things that he wants to give a home to in us. What a wonderful thing for God to be able to sit down in the cool of the evening and simply look at the work of his hands in us. What a wonderful thing for us to know we have actually allowed him to fulfill his own design of love far beyond what we could ever have planned. Then the “cell”, that place within us wherein the deepest longings are found, has an uninterrupted view of the incredible, which is now the possible.


Sr Hilda Scott osb