I am surrounded by women who love to grow things. Plants sigh in anticipation of a long drought when I venture near. Yet when these friends and family of mine come along, flora everywhere readies itself for a succulent stretch towards the light. These women love their gardens, and their gardens love them back. Which, if a recent conversation is any indicator, is not a commonly held opinion. After all, only people love, not things. Right? Well, the Theologian doesn’t seem to think so:
[quote=Gregory the Theologian] If you have understood the intelligence at work here and can explain it, turn your attention to the different kinds of plants, to the artistry displayed in their foliage, affording at once the maximum of pleasure to the eyes and of advantage to their fruit. Consider too the rich variety, the lavish abundance of fruits, the special beauty of the particularly important kinds. Examine the potentialities the juices of their roots and the scents their flowers have, not just the pleasant but the medically useful ones too, with their charming qualities of color. Their value shines through clearer than gems, since nature has made a sort of open banquet and served you with all you need to live and enjoy life” (Or. 28.26). 1 [/quote]
This passage is tucked away in the midst of Gregory’s overall argument about the overflowing variety of God’s creation. Gregory constructs a paean to the stunning beauty and complexity of our world, in which bees make mathematically perfect homes and spiders weave ethereal threads into “precious homes as well as hunting-grounds” (Or. 28.25), and the sun, moon and seasons embrace and part in a perfect dance, ruled by Love.2 Gregory’s point in this hymn to beauty, diversity and complexity is to sing the “incomprehensibility of deity to the human mind and its totally unimaginable grandeur” (Or. 28.11).3
My point is to note that flowers, simply by doing exactly what they are, love us back.
- 1. Nazianzus, Gregory of. On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius. Popular Patristics Series, ed. Frederick Williams, Lionel Wickham, R., and Gregory of Nazianzus. Crestwood, N.Y: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2002. p. 57.
- 2. Ibid., p. 56-57, 62.
- 3. Ibid., p. 45.