This is the sixth reflection in the Missio Lent series. Read the rest here.
This past Sunday marks the mid-point in Lent. It’s been called “Laetare Sunday” derived from the Latin introit used for the day within the Catholic Mass; “laetare” means “rejoice!” (This isn’t a new idea to Missio readers; check here.) If your Lenten journey has grown stale and parched, it’s a great day to revive it and to find refreshment. It’s a good time to rejoice and rest in the truth that God is at work, even when we struggle to see it. So rejoice!
I’ve been rejoicing lately because the iris bulbs I planted late last fall are emerging from the earth, their intrepid green breaking out of the brown clay and soil, pushing up past old brown leaves and mulch. It’s an invigorating sight. We’ve also spotted the daffodils doing the same thing, including one that a distant friend brought as a house-warming gift last spring. I dropped it in the ground with hope that we’d see it again, even as we held out hope that our lives would cross again. The fragile daffodil leaves are beginning to emerge, reminding us us these dear friends. Rejoice!
Lent begins in a wintered world, and slowly, spring overtakes it.
Keeping more Latin close at hand, one of my dearest friends in the world tells me that she’s been meditating lately on a unique Latin word that was used most distinctively by Hildegard von Bingen: viriditas. It means “greening” and refers particularly to that which God “greens,” to the lushness of his own trinitarian life of love, and to the fertile vitality that he bestows on his people. He greens the parched land, and he even makes it rejoice!
The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus (Isa. 35:1).
Viriditas is a wonderful word, and it’s arrival into my life at Laetare Sunday — the mid-point in Lent — couldn’t be more perfectly timed.
I asked her if I could share that word here, and she said yes. Lately, she’s been posting photos in her social media networks of red clay-brown terra cotta pots, full of inky-brown soil, brown basins of hope and just a little bit of work on her part. She prepared the soil, bought and planted the seeds, set the big clay planters out on her deck where they would get sun and rain. Now she waits. The work that happens next is not work that she herself will accomplish. She must trust that the greening will happen, that fruit — and vegetables — will emerge, even as she does the small tasks of making the conditions right for that greening to take place.
We do not grow ourselves. Yes, we work: we may put ourselves out on decks and porches like pots, warmed by the sun and the rain of God’s Word, but in the end we must trust the Great Gardener to do his work—to green us. Viriditas.
He will likely prune us, as my spiritual director reminds me each month, and cut us back with a severity that seems ruthless. She holds up to me a photo of a nakedly pruned crepe myrtle that she took recently, its bare, brown limbs humbly, vulnerably, waiting for new life to emerge.
If you are lacking vitality in your vocational commitments, put yourself before the warm light and gentle rain of God’s Word. Ask the gardener to do his work in you. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God has the power to create and order, to plow up and weed, and to grow and green our cluttered, parched minds and disordered hearts. Submit to his pruning, as severe as it may seem. Wait, in hope, for viriditas. Vocational viriditas. God is surely at work, and he makes parched, brown, desolate places refreshed, re-greened, and renewed. Rejoice!