Page 13, 2nd June 2006

2nd June 2006
Page 13
Page 13, 2nd June 2006 — PASTOR lUVENTUS Why Paradise is always a garden

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Organisations: Royal Hospital


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PASTOR lUVENTUS Why Paradise is always a garden

If this "drought" lasts much longer 1 will have to build an ark. Other than the rain I can't really remember much about the last week.

It is a busy time of year; many things come to fruition now: First Communions, the end of the school year for public exam candidates, prize-givings and the last half-term holiday of the academic year. We are cresting the hill of another year; for many of our young people it is a time of endings, of departure. The Feast of Our Lord's Ascension comes timely then. with its mysterious take on departures. namely that Jesus can go so as to be with us always, that the disciples can rejoice at his departure. We must learn that Love does not cling; it lets go; finally it does not even need proximity, only the certain faith that it is indestructible. Of course, it begins to come back to me now. We celebrated the feast of the Ascension on Thursday. 1 said the parish Mass in the morning, Mass in school in the afternoon, and we had a beautiful sung Mass in the evening in the church. It depresses me to see that much of the obligation seems to have gone out of holy days of obligation. This time I actually had some servers, having made the point of asking them specifically to come and having heard all kinds of reasons why they weren't intending to as they were otherwise engaged. Bless them, they clearly have no sense of obligation about Mass that day and like many of our good regular Sunday Mass goers just don't normally come on holy days. Some of the congregation, of course, go to lunchtime Mass at work, and some of the children are in Catholic schools where they have Mass. but I am sure that a high proportion of the Sunday congregation excuse themselves. This is so sad. What does it say about the understanding of the importance of mysteries of the faith like the Ascension, the Assumption, or, at a less exalted level, the importance and significance of obligation in matters of religion?

The night before, I had been to the Chelsea Flower Show, that would-be harbinger of summer, for the first ever time. I don't know if you recall, but on Wednesday evening it was pouring, the light was poor and there was a cold wind blowing so one didn't really see the flower'show at its best. It was a wonderful opportunity to appreciate the Royal Hospital though, surely one of the most beautiful buildings in England. As we wandered round the pavilion with all the flower displays we could hear the rain cannoning on the roof outside, and proper perusal of the outdoor gardens was rendered impossible. There were some breathtakingly beau

tiful displays inside: a kind of pyramid of night scented stocks, a bowered rose garden, a swathe of tree peonies in the colours of ecclesiastical prelates one was even named after Cardinal Vaughan and baskets of sweet peas of colours which would be garish if they weren't living things, textured and shaped as well as vividly coloured.

Beautiful though they were, the sheer abundance of perfection and the fact that they were artificially displayed, away, from gardens and away from the variety of a bed or border meant that the overall effect was less than the sum of its parts.

Does more and more uniformity render perfection dull? It led me to ponder whether we make Christianity into a sort of spiritual flower show. At the risk of seeming to second-guess divine omniscience. I wonder, does God actually relish a selection of identical perfect prize blooms all displayed remote from their context, or is the real beauty of man created by the variety and the fact that some beautiful thing can he even more beautiful when found in an unlikely place?

Perhaps God's idea of perfection is not the ideal uniformity of the horticulturist. Perhaps the beauty of mankind to God consists in its diversity, in the perfection of individuals forms not according to some ideal but according to the particular place and soil where he has planted me. Put crudely, I am to become a prize bloom, but of a variety that only God will recognise as being just right for my particular corner of the garden.

My beauty may not be apparent to anyone except God who has an overall scheme of planting and knows that put next to some other variety, I will appear to best advantage. My Christian conversion is not necessarily to be best in show or best in class, but to grow as well as I may in the corner of the garden allotted to me. Why else would God have put me there, with all the attendant circumstances of my growing life?

No wonder then, that Paradise is always seen as a garden; that the garden is the place of individual encounter with God. I just hope, if I am honest, that the weather there will be a bit less depressing. I need a bit of sunshine to look my best.

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