The Giving Tree

August 15, 2015 | Reflections from Sr Antonia

camellia upclose small

It seems to have been calling me for almost three weeks now, the camellia outside our refectory. My eyes have been drawn to it each time I pass by on my way to the Church for the Divine Office and I have marvelled at its beauty almost absent-mindedly, my thoughts busily elsewhere. Yesterday however, I really saw it. Ablaze in all its crimson glory it has produced such an abundance of blooms that many of them have had to relinquish their attachment to the branch that had given them sustenance and have quietly, gently, softly fallen to the ground, where they lie in triumphant glory.

camellia full tree 1

Finally, yesterday, I stood in the cloister and allowed the camellia to reveal its message to me, knowing already that what it spoke of was love. It spoke of the love that was poured out upon us from the cross, the love which overflowed in life even as it was poured out in death.

“Give, and gifts will be yours; good measure, pressed down and shaken up and running over, will be poured into your lap; the measure you award others is the measure that will be awarded you.”
— Luke 6:38  Trans. Ronald Knox.

Pondering this mystery, I was reminded of the words of St. Seraphim of Sarov, the 19th century Russian recluse who knew how to love in this way. I will quote the words in part here, so powerful has been their impact on me.

“One can never be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. But remember, no work of kindness or charity can bring down the Holy Breath unless it is done in the name of Christ. When it is joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of the one who gives and kindles joy in the heart of the one who receives.”
— St. Seraphim of Sarov in “Flame in the Snow” p. 161

“Avoid the spilling of speech”, he goes on to say, and as I hear these words, hopefully in the silence that follows, the crimson flowers of kindness and generosity will spill over from me to others bringing  forth joy in my own heart and in the heart of those who receive it.

The camellia melts through relinquishing some blooms in order for other blooms to live, and the resultant beauty of the crimson carpet which appears on the ground beneath the tree gives joy and sings of the beauty of God’s creation, as well as its mystery. Hopefully, I will learn to relinquish myself and give, gifts in good measure pressed down and overflowing just as the camellia does.

In his recent encyclical “Laudato Si” Pope Francis uses the following quote from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan. 2000:

“To sense each creature singing the hymn of its existence is to live joyfully in God’s love and hope.” 

Isn’t this what Benedictine listening is all about?

Truly a melting moment.