I have recent been reflecting upon my time in formation as a young Carmelite. My memory kept returning to the orchids within the priory from my time as a pre-novice. During my last few months in the priory before novitiate I was in chapel one afternoon and I found myself staring at an orchid that was placed in front of the altar. For whatever reason, on that day the beauty of that orchid struck me in a unique way. As I sat there pondering its exquisiteness, I began to think about the work that one little orchid requires. Orchids are not an easy flower to care for and any gardener with two cents can tell you that. That’s why a gardener that is attracted to the radiance of an orchid must be no stranger to work.
Labor of Love
Nevertheless, what kind of work does an orchid demand from its gardener exactly? Well, the gardener must be diligent; they must check the orchid every day and be willing to tend to its needs. When approached with sloth an orchid will surely die. A gardener must act with temperance, too much of anything will kill the little orchid. Water, sun, food anything in excess the orchid will reject, they are averse to gluttony. Finally, a gardener must be humble, because no work they do will ever force the orchid to blossom before its time. The orchid cares not for the wants of the prideful.
The True Food
As my mind arrived at these thoughts, I began to ask myself, is that it? As I pondered over that question, I was taken again to yet a deeper reality. All these solemn habits were being feed, but fed by what? Slowly this mystery was opening to me. These works are founded upon the virtues of faith, hope, and love. The gardener must have faith that their work will have an impact, the work must mean something. Even though they may not see it, this inner drive nourished by faith or better. The gardener must also have hope. A hope that tells them that even though they may not see the magnificence of that orchid today or tomorrow, some day it will blossom and its beauty will shine. Lastly, the gardener must love that orchid. Except, this is not a love that resides simply in the orchid for no matter how splendid the orchid is, the flower itself is still just temporary, it will die. The love the gardener has dwells in that which gave birth to the orchid. That which gives birth to all that is, God. Even though the gardener may not know it is God they love.
The Divine Beauty
The beauty of the orchid echo’s the beauty of God. God smiles on that which He creates, because it reflects His goodness and beauty. God beckons the gardener to come and tend to the soil, which yields such abundant joys, like the orchid, so His divine beauty may be known. God, the master grander, through the act of gardening, invites the gardener to see as He sees, to know as He knows, cherish as He cherishes, and love as He loves. The gardener through the gift of the orchid is responding to its splendor, through the her or his own labors of love. The gardener plants the seed, and knows not how it grows (Mk 4:26). Thus, the love the gardener has in their heart must be of God, for why else would one sweat over an orchid, which shines so brightly, yet withers just as quickly.