Seasons of Glory
A tree gives glory to God…by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be, it is imitating an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.
The more a tree is like itself, the more it is like him….For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is, in fact, the problem of finding out who I am and of discovering my true self.
Trees and animals have no problem. God makes them what they are without consulting them, and they are perfectly satisfied.
With us it is different. God leaves us free to be whatever we like. We can be ourselves or not, as we please.
—Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
I’m not sure when my love for trees began. Perhaps it was in the fifth grade when we were required to memorize “Trees,” a poem by Joyce Kilmer. As a ten-year-old, the likelihood of trees as icons of prayer enchanted my young imagination, stirring a feeling deep within that was accompanied by a profound sense of wonder. Decades later, I remain captivated by the size and scale of these “cathedrals of nature,” but it’s the seasonal changes of deciduous trees that have come to serve as spiritual guides. Not unlike an artist’s rendering of the metamorphosis that takes place within the landscape of the soul, the seasonal changes of these ambassadors of prayer herald the transformation that takes place during the deepening stages of prayer. The alternating sequence of death and new life bear witness to the cyclical nature of growth, offering visual reassurance to prayer-weary souls that death is but a precursor to new life.
Consider that in the springtime, tiny shoots erupt from budlike cocoons through a process that mirrors the miraculous. Leaves, which only days earlier were barely visible, are transformed into lush, green vegetation, signaling the advent of new life. Just as leaves unfold and mature gradually, so does prayer that resides in the depths of the heart awaken purposefully under the watchful eye of the Creator. In its infancy, the interior cries of the heart are audible only to God, who is quietly at work in the deepest alcoves of the soul. But as hearts respond to God’s initiative, those subtle yearnings find voice in words of praise, thanksgiving, and intercession.
To read more, subscribe to Liguorian.