Now the Green Blade Rises (On the Virtue of Hope)
Now the green blade rises, from the buried grain.
Wheat that in dark earth, many days had lain.
Love lives again that with the dead had been.
Love has come again like wheat arising green.
Are you familiar with this lovely hymn? It is easily one of my favorite Easter songs (this is saying a lot since I'm mildly obsessed with Easter and Holy Week...). It is, of course, referring to Christ - the "Love" who has been resurrected.
I also love this song for the hope it invokes, though.
I was put in mind of this because we have had record temperatures around here and it's been absolutely BEAUTIFUL! Spring has come again, and with it...so much hope.
Last year at this time, our little domestic monastery had just survived a very difficult winter together. It was a time of transition, a time when we each had gone through our share of struggles, and a time of lots of cold and snow. When spring blossomed, we all felt alive again...especially Sister Stinky, who was a late autumn baby and who had never laid out in the sunshine before!
(Don't you love how Sister Stinky was still a bit of a baldy back then?)
Last winter, our family was also in the midst of discerning where God was calling us to go for the next stage of our journey together. We knew the Abbot felt called to continue his studies at the doctoral level, and we were fairly confident that the best fit for Sister Stinky and I would be one in which we could be together full time. The Abbot had applied to a number of schools, and we were waiting to hear back from them. Our hearts were pretty set on wanting to stay right where we were, though. Yes, it wasn't perfect...but it was so familiar.
We were so settled. We had a parish that we loved, we knew our landlords so well (they were an elderly Catholic couple that had taken us under their wings as if we were their own grandchildren), we were living in the part of the country we had grown up in and were close to family. The Abbot and I were also both very familiar with his school, and knew that it was top notch.
But deep down, we also both knew something else...we felt that there was a good chance that God might be calling us to step outside of our comfort zone. When the Abbot applied to his slew of different schools, we were open to the possibility that God might send us somewhere entirely new.
The first offer rolled in and we were thrilled! It was from a wonderful university that the Abbot was sincerely interested in, not far from home (albeit farther from our families than we had ever lived but still a very driveable distance), and included a stipend that we could live off of. There was only one thing...we still had our hearts set on our current location.
However, open to what God might have in mind for us, we decided to check out this particular school. We scheduled a visit and were even able to stay with some dear friends who lived a short drive from the campus. We thought that even if the Abbot didn't end up attending this school - because OF COURSE we weren't really going to have to move! - it would still be a nice trip for us.
The morning after we arrived, the Abbot found out that he hadn't received an offer from the school he'd been attending. He found this out only moments before stepping out the door to visit the campus of this new school.
I was shocked. Of course I had told God that I was willing to "go wherever He led us" but I hadn't thought He would take me seriously. I saw it more as a gratuitous offer, a kind of, "God, of course, you know we'll go wherever you call us (wink, wink), but we both know you're going to call us to stay put."
Yet, when the Abbot and I saw very clearly that God was calling us to relocate, we gave God our "yes."
I am SO glad we did! Our current home has been a far better fit for us than our old home. The Abbot is thriving in his current academic environment and Sister Stinky and I are thriving in the community of friends that we are now a part of.
I'm reminded of this when I look out the window this morning. There is a bush covered with tiny leaves in our yard.
It was a bush that, only about a week ago, I was bound and determined to cut down. It was ugly, and eyesore, bare and prickly. I saw no reason to keep it. I would cut it down first chance I got.
Until I saw it this morning, pretty and green, one of the only plants already sprouting leaves in our yard.
Both of these stories, my friends, point us to the virtue of hope.
Hope is the virtue by which we trust that what appears to us to be dead will be brought to life again. It is trusting that God's plans for us are what will bring us deep joy even in the midst of struggle. It is in trusting that, by giving God our fiat we will find new life.
Hope is what the Lenten season is all about. It is about gazing at the wood of a cross and being able to see in it a love surpassing all other. It is about knowing that, from pain and suffering, comes new life.
The cross gives us this hope. The cross shows us that suffering and death are not ends in themselves. United to Christ's suffering on the cross, our suffering is no longer in vain. For, as Paul says, "...if we have died with Christ, we believe we will also live with Him." (Romans 6:8)
From this suffering, from the cross, springs forth new life. A life unlike any would could have every imagined before.
In the words of the motto of the CSCs, "Ave crux, spes unica!" Hail the cross, our only hope.