Hazel Seeds

Hazel Seeds

22 August 2016

('Hazel Seeds' is an additional chapter for 'The Abbot's Shoes -
Seeking a Contemplative Life' which can be obtained from  It addresses the "hot" topic of
mystical experience in a life of prayer.  In the final analysis it is
not an experience of
God that we should be seeking, but God Himself.  Often, in
His omnibenevolence, He kindly grants us glimpses of Himself and His
glory through the extraordinarily beautiful world He has created and
holds in existence, in all of its everyday ordinariness.)

Was it the absence of a radio or television?  I do not know.  But from
time-to-time my senses were inundated and almost completely
overwhelmed by the unremarkable and commonplace.  Were such moments
spiritual or mystical?  Who could tell?  Certainly not me, who was
nevertheless on the receiving end of such epiphanies.

Almost half a century later I still most clearly remember those times
of heightened sensitivity taking place during None.  It was the
briefest Office and being almost immediately after our early afternoon
nap, challenging to get to on time.  After a substantial midday
dinner, we took to our cells and beds for the traditional siesta.  A
blanket of absolute and immense stillness and silence descended upon
Our Lady of the Southern Star for more than an hour.  I found that if
I did fall fast asleep it was torture waking up and dragging my
drugged self to a cup of tea and then back into church.

"O God, come to my assistance.  O Lord, make haste to help us" was so
much more than this Hour's introit.  "Jesus, please help me not to
just lie down on the floor here, right now, and fall back into the
warm oblivion of sleep."

But paradoxically this Hour of "affliction" often ended in something
akin to bliss.  Finally, turning back to the Altar we sang, "How great
is Your name, O Lord, in all the earth.  For You have made for
Yourself a worthy dwelling place, in the Virgin Mary."  Then in the
briefest of pauses before our dismissal with the Abbot's blessing,
earth collided with Heaven, or did Heaven simply invade us?  I do not
know.  But for those few seconds everything remained normal, but
became extraordinary.  The church's window frames and glass, metal
paths, fields, fences and twisted pine windbreaks outside, were
suffused to shimmer with transcendence.  Nothing had
actually changed.  But everything was for a few moments rendered so
completely different as to seem to be other.

This is the world where trees and rivers "clap their hands", mountains
sing, and the road metal beneath our boots cries out, "Blessed is the
king who comes in the name of the Lord".(1)

Eastern Europe's 17th century Jewish holy men (Hasidim) knew well this
other and yet completely our world.  For them the sacred imbued every
created thing that surrounded them.  There was divinity and holiness
in the way a withered leaf abandoned a tree to flutter and
spin down to the ground.

In our Lord "all things hold together" and He is "sustaining all
things by his powerful word".(2)  Perhaps then we
should constantly lean forward and into our little lives, always
expecting that at any moment He will "flame out, like shining from
shook foil"?(3)

The afternoon walk to work on the sheep farm could still be just a
weary trudge, awkward gates opened and closed in the same old
difficult way, and the air outside the red shearing shed continued to
breathe a rich and pleasant fragrance of dung and lanolin.  But that
was not all.  Everything remained as it was, or seemed to be  -
ordinary, commonplace, mundane.  And yet?

Such matters continue still to be well over my grey head, and yet I
cannot help but wonder?  When the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the
power of the Most High overshadowed her, God was conceived in her
virginal womb.(4)  And?  And the divine was then restored in a flash
to its rightful place ... in the core and at the heart of all created things.
Dull and sullen evil forever deposed to the periphery of everything,
there to wheeze out its vile and nihilistic threats.

"The seed of God is in us ... a hazel seed, grows into a hazel tree.
A seed of God, grows into God."(5)

1)   Isaiah 55.12 Psalm 98.8 Luke 19.38-40
2)   Colossians 1.17 Hebrews 1.3
3)   "Gerard Manley Hopkins.  Poems and Prose" (Penguin Books, England 1985)
4)   Luke 1.35 Matthew 1.20
5)   "Meister Eckhart.  The Essential Sermons, Commentaries,
Treatises, and Defense" (Paulist Press, New Jersey 1981)