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Issue 124 - Botanical Garden - June 2015

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Past Issues


2-Creating Sacred Space

3-Leaving Footprints


5-Ordered Life

76-Vanier Visit

87-Wondrous Fear, Holy Awe

91-Crater Lake


101-On Reflections 

102-Morning Moments

104-Into Self Into God

107-First Home

108-NBA Championship

110-On Freedom 

112 Robin Williams 


114-Simple Acts 

116-Kentucky Epiphany 

119-Christmas Mystery  


121-Radical Amazement 

122-St.John's Bible 

123-We're Back  

Link to all past issues   




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Reflecting on our recent visit to the San Antonio Botanical Garden....
Alchemy in the Garden
          It was one of those absolutely perfect days - cool and clear, following the flooding rains we've had here in San Antonio. There was a sense of rightness - just sitting on the bench in the Sacred Garden section and letting the anima mundi soak into my soul. The anima mundi seemed to be in perfect balance in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens - a sort of "alchemy, bringing to completion something which has not been completed," as Paraclesus put it.
          That day, all things seemed complete and in balance. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote in The Divine Milieu that "At the heart of our universe, each soul exists for God, in our Lord." Yet Earth's primitive inhabitants -bhutas, angels, asuras, elves, yaksas, and marauding demons perhaps still do roam Earth as well, some causing havoc. My mind wandered to the memory of one of my Spiritual Directees, who always complained about her inability to pray. Her mind was "a tree full of monkeys," she claimed. Another Directee reported that he was frequently troubled by marauding demons.
          I wondered as I sat on the garden bench, about establishing a relationship with the Earth as one would a friendship or garden, not as one would plunder a mine. Certain elements need to be cultivated for the orchid blooms in the Conservatory to be so spectacular. Even if the light, moisture, and air movement are perfect, yet if there is not the right composition of fungus in the soil, the orchids won't bloom. Earth's lessons teach us well about the alchemy of life, and resting at the heart of the universe, as one would rest on a garden bench.


Humanity in its Place

"Consider the lilies of the field," Jesus said. And so we did. We Lilies took a day and visited the San Antonio Botanical Gardens, where we considered the lilies and the orchids, the Desert Rose and the Zombia Palm. We saw succulents and cedars, towering trees and tiny tendrils.  We saw the manifold wonders of God's creation - often beautiful, sometimes strange.

The scriptures speak of God's care for all of creation, from the opening chapter of Genesis ("the earth produced growing things: plants ... and trees ..., and God saw that it was good") to the words of Jesus himself ("Look at the birds in the sky; ... your heavenly Father feeds them").

But scripture also speaks of creation's response to its creator: "The heavens tell out the glory of God," says one psalm, while another calls on all creation to join in God's praise, "Praise the Lord from the earth, ... all mountains and hills; all fruit trees and cedars; wild animals ..., creeping creatures and winged birds.... Let them praise the name of the Lord."

The natural world is not merely a passive backdrop for the grand drama of human existence. Creation is humanity's partner in the dance of life. Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, speaks of putting "humanity in its place" - yes, as a focal point of God's creation, made in the very image of God, but not the be-all and end-all of God's concern. As Williams puts it, "To be human is to be with the non-human world, even to be for the non-human world."*

As Francis of Assisi put it, "Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, who sustains us and governs us and who produces varied fruits with colored flowers and herbs." All creation joins the human race in praising God and crying out for God's help. Williams is right: We are not human apart from our rootedness in God's created world.

The slogan of the San Antonio Botanical Garden is "Cultivate yourself." How true! Only through attention to the natural world around us, only by living with and for the non-human world, do we cultivate our true humanity in God's image. 

--  Bill


*The Lion's World: A Journey into the Heart of Narnia (Oxford, 2012) chap. 1.

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Sincerely,  Bill Howden & Jan Davis
Soul Windows Ministries