The Sunflower

It was just an ordinary sunflower plant, not yet in bloom. But as I recently glanced out our refectory window, I could not help but marvel at how sturdy and tall it had become, as if sprouting up overnight. And a phrase from one of the Psalms came to mind ... something about an olive tree planted in the house of the Lord. What was it exactly? I checked the breviary, and there it was, Psalm 52 at Office of Readings on Wednesday, week 2 of the Psalter ... But I am like a growing olive tree in the house of God. I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever. A tinge of conscience hit me, “Lord, do I really trust you as much as I should? Please help me to truly be a sturdy, fruitful ‘vine’ in this, your house.”

That was all! An incident seemingly too small to mention in a blog. And I suppose if I had searched the internet, I could have found much more gorgeous pictures of sunflowers, perhaps a whole field of them all in bloom, with a mountain in the background, and near a lake reflecting back the golden hue. But this was a real sunflower plant, just outside my window. And something about its sturdiness reminded me a Psalm, and the Psalm led me to say a little prayer, to shoot, as it were, a tiny arrow upwards towards God. And this is a good example of what our monastic life is all about. The things around us, the things we do, are meant to help us stay “recollected” or focused on God. As our Constitutions put it, “The whole life of the nuns is harmoniously ordered to preserving the continual remembrance of God” (#74.IV).

One of the great helps for staying recollected is the chanting of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours. We call it the “Divine Office,” not because we sit at a desk with a computer—it is not that kind of an office—but because it is a work that the Church appoints us to carry out. It is a “sacrifice of praise.” Hour after hour, day after day, year after year, we chant the Psalms over and over. This is not vain repetition, because we are singing the holy Word of God, a word which is “living and active,” and which can pierce the heart, if only in a little tinge of conscience: Lord, do I really trust you as much as I should? Please help me to truly be a sturdy, fruitful “vine” in this, your house.

The Liturgy of the Hours, then, is akin to Lectio Divina. We are constantly “feeding” our minds on the Word of God. Over time, we begin to think about, to meditate on, these words. Meditation leads to a further prayer in our own words, in the quiet of our hearts. Hopefully all this disposes us for contemplation, to grow in our prayer life, so that at times we can simply take delight in the Lord, in some truth about the Lord.

Yes, Lord, please help me to truly be a sturdy, fruitful “vine” in this, your house, amen!