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Roots of Hope, Peace, Joy and Love

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5 December 2010 3 Comments

Giant tree in Plaza San Martin, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Lately, I have been paying attention to trees. It all started this past July at a staff gathering for my community, Word Made Flesh, when we reflected on the theme of stability. Trees came up quite a bit as an image of stability. More recently, I have been mindful of a question posed by Susan S. Phillips in her book Candlelight: Illuminating the Art of Spiritual Direction. She asks one of her directees to imagine the tree that she is created to be and has become. (p. 154). Throughout the Scriptures we also find the imagery of trees, roots, branches and bearing fruit to refer to our spiritual lives with God.

Buenos Aires is a city known for its abundance of trees. The city is full of beautiful trees that line the avenues and fill the parks and plazas. The size and maturity of these trees demonstrate they have been around quite awhile, unlike most of the trees I am used to in suburban Southern California. Throughout the year the trees reflect the seasons, again unlike most trees in Southern California. I am extra aware of the trees as summer begins here in the Southern Hemisphere. The trees are now at their fullest and people are taking advantage of the shade and outdoor space for the refreshment they offer. Just this past week our community spent the day at a park with the youth we serve among in Buenos Aires. It was a hot day, so we spent the majority of our time enjoying one another under the cool shade of some large trees.

In paying more attention to trees I have reflected on the characteristics and qualities of trees that I’d like to strive for in my own life and formation. In his book, The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove speaks of establishing ‘roots of love’ that bind us “intimately to our landscape and the people who share life on it.” (p. 83). He goes on to say, “If the love of God and neighbor is our end goal, roots of love in stability are the means God has given for making progress in this life.” (p. 84) The depth and reach of our roots directly impacts the reach of our limbs and the fruit we bear.

So, as this new liturgical year begins this Advent season, I desire to deepen not only roots of love, but also hope, peace and joy. As I make space to be attentive and live into these Advent themes, I seek to deepen and nourish my roots of stability. I pray this will enable me to more fully bear the fruit of hope, peace, joy and love in the new year ahead. I will continue to pay attention to trees to remind me of these things.

Photo: “Giant Tree in Plaza San Martin” by “Marc Smith” from Flickr (Used under Creative Commons license)


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  • Recidivus ut Sanitas said:

    “We must begin to recognize that roots are at least as important as fruits.” Stuart Briscoe.

    Without strong roots, fruit withers.

    Without good top soil, roots cannot grow strong.

    Good top soil is in the business of transforming dead things into life.

    Many of those dead things are dropped by the tree itself.

    If the tree does not drop those dead things, they rob the tree of life both internally (use of sap) and externally (lack of soil).

    A tree does not often give up it’s dead things willingly; they must be pruned, shaken or blown off.

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  • Shana said:

    Hello~ I am 26. Have struggled with growing roots for a long time. I’m finally at the point of understanding and embracing roots. I read Acedia and Me by Kathleen Norris and felt that she offered a lot of wisdom on how “restless boredom, frantic escapism, commitment phobia, and enervating despair that plagues us today is the ancient demon of acedia in modern dress”.

    I’m home, with my family and friends in a state that I love, Minnesota! I am looking at graduate schools in Washington and Oregon for counseling, spiritual formation, and theology. I’m wondering, what would ignatian spirituality, Christ, and the wisdom of stability have to say in this situation?

    I have such a strong curiosity for these grad programs, and yet, in those moments where I am thankful for what I have, content, and happy, I can’t imagine leaving Minnesota.

    I just love this article!

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  • John O'Keefe said:

    Stability has always been more Benedictine than Ignatian, but I am very Ignatian and I love the idea of stability. I think Ignatian spirituality would say “follow your heart, your deepest desire.” That desire could include stability. It could also mean being away for a season then returning.

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