Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there. -John 19:41-42
As we prepare to enter the garden of Resurrection, it would be good to prepare ourselves for this event with some further words of meditation concerning the significance of the garden as a reality in our own lives here and now. A recently published book by Anthony Lilles entitled Hidden Mountain, Secret Garden brings into a contemplative light some teachings of St. Teresa of Avila in this regard:
“Teresa of Avila describes beginning to pray in terms of cultivating a garden. The garden she has in mind is the most intimate of all settings: the heart. After her own conversion, she read Augustine’s Confessions and his experience helped her understand her own. She also realized that in order to realize the deepest desires of her heart, she had to rely on the Lord alone. The only way to do this was by intimacy with Christ in prayer. He alone has the power to overcome those things that hold us back.
“Teresa taught we must do everything we can so that He can make our hearts beautiful. The heart is meant to be a beautiful place of encounter with the Lord. This makes sense. In the depths of our hearts, Christ is the soil from which all life springs, and at the same time He is the water of everlasting life. His deepest desire is that our hearts would burst forth with life and beauty and fruitfulness….How do we help Christ make the garden of our heart beautiful?…(Teresa) describes inner strength and readiness to accept the truth as beautiful and fragrant flowers especially enjoyed by Christ as He comes into our hearts….
“Only when we open wide the doors of our hearts to Him does He have the freedom to act in our lives.
“She recommends two principle activities for disposing ourselves to feelings of devotion. We can think about Jesus and various scenes of His life or we can carefully examine our lives and search for His presence in our memories. They are both forms of meditation open to moments of deep intimacy with Jesus that center our powers of imagination, understanding and affectivity on the Lord and help us become mindful of Him. In very gentle and profound ways, sometimes noticed and sometimes not, He touches us when we try to exercise sincere and mindful devotion….
“She learned that…(the) ability to rest in God’s presence (is) the Prayer of Quiet. Such prayer is the holy recollection of the powers of our soul in Christ, a silent stillness before the mystery of His presence and an adoring openness to His generous love. It is like standing at the threshold of heaven….
“Mental prayer is almost always possible when we are honest with ourselves. This is true even when our hearts do not seem to feel what they should when we think about holy things. Consider the Christ dying for us on the Cross. Some who think of this are immediately moved with tears and gratitude, as was Teresa of Avila eventually. Often, however, where there should be profound gratitude, we feel repulsion. This repulsion is a profound poverty. We know what we should feel, but we do not feel it. If you feel this, do not be discouraged. Lift up your heart. It is precisely in this poverty that we should begin to seek Christ’s love.”
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Now on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb…. John 20:1
There is a profound poverty in Mary’s heart at this point, because of the violence, brutality and loss of her dearest Friend and Rabbi so fresh in her mind. She is still moving toward Jesus in the dark, and is about to be overwhelmed with amazement, hearing the voice of her Lord–the tiller, sower and waterer of the soil of her heart–saying her name with great love, and perhaps even a gentle, joy-filled laugh….