Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Ditch Lilies ~ Summer's Lesson of Stability

DITCH LILIES, ALSO CALLED TIGER LILIES, or more elegantly, Hemerocallis fulva grow in 42 states. Gardeners know what it means to say that they can be found in zones 3 through 10. Translation: these day-lilies are widely naturalized throughout much of North America.  Often they are found growing alongside country roads and around old homesteads - even having survived the buildings around which they were planted over a hundred years ago.

These orange lilies are not native to North America but may have come here from China. They are known to be tough and vigorous. If the weed-whacker takes them down, or the dog digs them up, or someone throws a clump of them out the car window, or the salt spreader drives over them in January, or the ground is dry in August - they will not just survive but resurrect and even bloom well. 

The strange thing about these plants is that they do not spread by seed but by a fleshy root system called a rhizome. One plant will spread to take over a large area, (a plus or minus depending on one's gardening disposition), but the bottom line is, wherever we find them, someone had to plant (or throw) at least one on that spot.

Having to be planted, they are a nature-reminder of the spiritual value of stability. Benedictines make a vow of stability by which the monk or nun professes, "I will stay with this monastic community permanently, and for the rest of my life, trusting that God will give me here, with these monks and the visitors who come and go, no matter who winds up being in charge, whatever I need to grow humanly and to attain my salvation."  That's quite a vow!

But I'd add that while most of us don't take vows of stability, there is some dimension of stability to be found or called upon in every state of life. There's...

  • The spouse who sits with the dying husband or wife - for better/for worse - til death.
  • The parent who's in for the long haul with a special needs child.
  • The athlete who remains with the team through the losing streaks.
  • The people who struggle everyday to live with chronic and even life-threatening sickness.
  • The student who battles with the difficult course that will determine graduation.
  • Those who re-establish community after tsunami, earthquake, fire, tornado, hurricane or mudslide.
  • The parishioners who stay with a parish through its ups and downs.

The insight of stability yielding spiritual benefit might come from the injunction of Jesus to the disciples in the Gospel of Luke 10:7
"Stay at the same house, eating and drinking what they offer you, for the workman deserves his pay. Do not change from one house to another."

The day-lily may spread in the immediate area but it's not a plant that we can call wandering. It has to be planted wherever it's going to bloom and flourish. Maybe Jesus is telling us that if we are to grow, deepen and become truly established we need to be planted ourselves. 

In the school for young people who have lost their way, where I've served as a chaplain, there is an idea or insight which may well come from AA, called the geographical cure. It is the young person who thinks, "If I could only get back home, I'd behave and make my family proud." "If I could only get away from these people and get back with my friends, I'd carry a new message and we'd all change." "If only I could get back to my town and my old school, I'd do it differently now." "Anywhere but here." 

One monastic website quotes an ancient desert father, Abba Stabilitas (I wonder if they made up his name).
"Stay put! Don't be running all over the place, looking for happiness. You're looking for the wrong thing anyway. Look for God. Look for God just where you are at this time, in this place, with these people, and with yourself. If you can't find God here, you won't find God anywhere, and if you think you have found God elsewhere, you haven't. It's an illusion. It's a god of your own making, and do you know what a god of your own making is? An idol."


  1. Just beautiful! Thank you again and again.

  2. The "ditch lilies" will be gone in a few days - let's enjoy them and be reminded today.

  3. In this time of crisis in my life, in the world. Your post reminds me to keep steady, keep firm, only turn to the Lord. Thanks for that reminder. It was very helpful.

  4. It seems you have found your geographical cure. For my dimension of stability I might add:
    Those who remain with you through thick and thin, who don't forget those who have loved you and helped you even when they are gone from your life.

  5. I know someone might say that I didn't practice stability by returning here to the retreat house - though I didn't just up and walk away. The best I can do to understand it is that sense of "call within a call" that Mother Teresa spoke of with regard to her own life. I was given this property and its house and church as if from heaven - and couldn't believe that God just wanted me to dispose of it and the work that happens here - to say nothing of the new work of the Blog - which people see all over the world. If I read all the signs wrong - I pray Jesus will inform and correct me mercifully when I stand before him. I've instructed my sister that when I die she is to put a small icon of the Mother of God on my chest so that when I appear before Jesus for my judging he will see his Mother's picture first and look the more kindly upon me. I refresh my sister's memory in that regard now and again.