Plants are amazing metaphors, I think, for the seasons of our lives. I have only two green plants in my bedroom now and although I smile at them and greet them as I come and go, I am sometimes rather inattentive. Happily, I know they are both always willing to forgive me. One is a Christmas cactus that is not a great indicator of the coming feast as it tends to flower at Thanksgiving – or sometimes whenever the inclination to burst forth gets hold of it. This year, however, it seems to have heard the Advent cry of “Come!” and, although with only one bud, is right on schedule to flower around – if not on – the actual feast of Christmas. I am always surprised at the budding and never mind whether or not it skips a year or comes unexpectedly because it is strong and requires very little care. Steadfastness is its gift to me.
Then there is my prayer plant, Maranta by name, that seems fragile and strong by turns. The reason for the designation as a prayer plant is simply because each night her leaves lift from whatever angle they sit at during the day and come together into a vertical image of prayer reaching to heaven. It is a small miracle each morning (if I awake early enough) to observe her faithful keeping of vigil, knowing that as I slept God was not forgotten. She has been through many seasons since she was given to me as a single leaf from the “mother plant.” Sometimes I have feared for her life but she has always rebounded from dry seasons or cold to flower again. At last count I had given gifts of her shoots to eight people and hope that her progeny will see many more generations. I count on her fidelity and example of how to navigate life.
Today the antiphon calling the Christ to come to us speaks of Jesse, father of the great King David, of whose line – 28 generations later – came Jesus. Although I cannot go back very far to name my ancestors, I know that in every cell I have been formed for this life I now lead. As the beautiful psalm 139 says, I know that God has “knit me in my mother’s womb” and made me for praise in this life. Let us all give thanks for what God has planted in us and ask to be faithful nurturers as we pray:
O Flower of Jesse’s Stem, sign of God’s love for all people, come! Take root in us and bring us to flower in our time!