A garden is a teacher. A person who gardens oblivious to the lessons of God's creation misses treasures, but one who gardens with the ears of the soul open to learn will be fed. The garden teaches us the incomprehensible lesson of life and death. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies..." Every year, the garden patienly walks us through this lesson. It is in the present plant dying that next year's crop is possible. Also with man. It is only in dying to self that we can bear fruit abundantly, fruit that will last. As gardener this summer, several lessons were particularly striking to me.
First, there is meaning in darkness. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone..." Into. It is not simply to detach from the parent plant, but to disappear into the earth. It is lost in darkness. Alone. Suffocated by the earth. It cannot see the path ahead, nor can eyes above see it, but in that darkness and aloneness it is transformed. What was last seen as a small, insignificant bit of matter now begins again as a small, delicate sprout, growing into "a fruitful vine." From the darkness arises a thing of beauty. Without the darkness and isolation, there can be no harvest. So with the spiritual life.
The garden reinforces the lesson of littleness and hiddeness. It is from the tiniest bits of matter, dried and shriveled, lifeless, that the luscious growth of summer springs. God has no need of any one of us to carry out His glorious work. Nonetheless, in His wisdom He invites everyone to have a share in His life. Seeds are tiny and insignificant in themselves, yet they contain within the ability to, cooperating with their design, become beautiful plants. We too are insignificant in ourselves, but through the grace of Baptism, God dwells within us. If we cooperate with His design, He can use us for His greater glory and the salvation of souls.
Silence. Everything in the garden happens in silence. Life. Death. Flowering. Bearing fruit. Never does the eggplant stand up and say, "Look at me! See how beautiful and rich my color is - royal!" Nor does the tomato develop a huffy attitude when it's ripe fruit isn't acknowledged and picked immediately. It sprouts, blooms, and ripens in silence. If it is mature and no one picks it, it simply lets go, slips back into the ground, and in that death lays seeds for next year's harvest.
"Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but
if it dies it bears much fruit. he who loves his life loses it, and he who hates
his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If any one serves me, he
must follow me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if any one
serves me, the Father will honor him." ~ John 12:24-26