REFLECTIONS ON WHAT MY ORANGE TREE TAUGHT ME ABOUT GOD

I share with you some of my ideas from Lectio Divina Meditation and Contemplation based on Philippians 2:5.

This morning, I was looking at my orange tree in the front yard. I had previously had many orange blossoms but now just ten teeny, tiny green buds were visible. I thought of how my spirituality was like that tree, dependent upon good soil, water, free from disease, all to make fruit. The nature of this tree is to live, grow, make fruit, and then die. It reminds me of the Canticle from Daniel 3 that we pray in the Psalms at the Liturgy of the Hours.

Let the earth bless the Lord;
    let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
75 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
76 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
77 Bless the Lord, you springs;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
78 Bless the Lord, seas and rivers;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
79 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
80 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
81 Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

 I often wondered about this hymn of praise to God and how a tree, like my orange tree, could possibly give praise to God and highly exalt him forever.  Trees are not human, so how could they possibly give praise like we do when we pray. There is an answer, if we look deeper into the nature of life itself.  Nature just is. It obeys the laws of just being itself without any complicated restrictions. It is only when we look at human nature that we find aberration and perversion of nature. Adam and Eve were created by God to be caretakers of the Garden of Eden. They were to help all creation function according to its nature, without getting in the way of what should be. And what should be? That is up to the Creator, not Adam and Eve.

Creation is good because God is good. Adam and Eve are good because God does make good stuff.  When I look at my orange tree, I can begin to see how it can give praise to God by being an orange tree.  My orange tree does not try to be an oak tree or a morning glory. It gives praise to God by being consistent with its nature. I know that the orange tree acts according to its nature because it bears good fruit. If it does not bear good fruit, I will cut it down and cast it to the curb to be taken away to the landfill.

Orange trees can praise God by being what nature intended. When it comes to humans, we have a problem. Because humans have free will and can change what is natural to their nature (human), we can choose those things not good for us (sin).  In fact, we can even be little gods, without even recognizing we are doing it. Worshipping yourself is the big sin since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, not sexuality or anger.  Pride goes before the fall, so to speak. I am my own church, I am my own religion, I am, in every respect, my own god, and I have a fool for a congregation.  My orange tree does not want to be a god, it wants to be an orange tree because that is what it is. By being what it is, it gives glory to the Creator. Poor humans!  We are condemned to wander the earth in search of meaning and where we fit, even though we stumble over the truth in our quest for being god.  I have a human nature, one that has the natural default to be a caretaker of God’s Garden. Something happened to that birthright because of Adam and Eve. They changed the effects of the relationship with God. Human nature was now prone to do not only good but also evil. God tells us what evil is but we must still struggle with doing good. Like Adam and Eve, we must work to be spiritual, not just sit back on the conveyor belt of life and go to Heaven.

Something wonderful happened to this paradigm as it pertains to God. Philippians 2:5-12 states that God did not remain in the safety and security of his nature, but took on a new nature, one sinful and prone to sinfulness.  Jesus gave us the ability to be adopted sons and daughters of the Father once again. There is a difference. We must work for our food and we must struggle to do God’s will, taking up our cross daily to follow our Master.  No free lunch. Daily!

When I see my orange tree each morning, I think of how it glories God by just being what it is created to be. I think of how I am created in the image and likeness of God but need God’s grace and energy to sustain myself as my wounded human nature hobbles toward the goal line (death) and the prize (happiness with God…Forever).

As an aspiring Lay Cistercian, the Cistercian practices (silence, solitude, work, pray, and community) help me to be more focused on the purpose of life, which first learned in 7th Grade: to know, love, and serve God in this life, and be happy in Heaven…Forever. (Baltimore Catechism)

To continue from Daniel 3:

“Bless the Lord, all people on earth;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
83 Bless the Lord, O Israel;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
84 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
85 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
86 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
87 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.

88 “Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael;
    sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.
For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power[f] of death,
    and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace;
    from the midst of the fire he has delivered us.
89 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
    for his mercy endures forever.
90 All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods,
    sing praise to him and give thanks to him,
    for his mercy endures forever.”

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