The idea of a garden is almost always pleasant. But there is a bloody business to them.
They require a microcosmic battle. We root out weeds, hunt and kill unwanted insects. We prune. Tilling the soil is a classic human vocation. It is, therefore, fitting that we find the high points of Jewish and Christian imagery within the context of a garden.
There was, of course, the Garden of Eden, where, we are told, our ancestors lost their connection to the Creator and began to experience their relationship to the earth in terms of curses. St. Irenaeus found it significant that Jesus of Nazareth retraced the steps of human history, succeeding where we had failed.
We were kicked out of a garden. Jesus goes to a garden called Gethsemane to sweat blood, then ends up in a garden tomb after His crucifixion. And for those in the Christian church, that work of re-chaptering the human story allows one to say, cosmically, that it is all finished.
God is restoring the unrest of our earthly gardens. Nonetheless, for believers, this hope is not yet realized. We are already promised a garden that is free from bloodshed, and we have Jesus to thank for this. We remember His work as we prepare for Holy Week and the joy of Easter.
But, in our penultimate reality, our gardens can still be war zones. The original balance has not been fully realized. On Monday, April 7, Dutch Jesuit Frans van der Lugt was shot in the head twice in the garden of his monastery in the besieged city of Homs, Syria. He refused to abandon his post, despite unrest in his world.
This reminds us that, for all our best efforts—political and evangelistic—our approach should always be through the Theology of the Cross. Our gardens are still bloody, but the blood of the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world will one day restore peace to our gardens: every piece of cultivated soil from Argentina to Syria will be set right. Rejoice with us in this promise, even as we mourn the loss of a monk who stood courageously in the face of manifest evil.