Inheriting Paradise

Inheriting Paradise

by Vigen Guroian
     
 

The garden is a personal place of retreat and delight and labor for many people. Gardening helps us collect ourselves, much as praying does. For rich and poor- it makes no difference- a garden is a place where body and soul are in harmony.

In Inheriting Paradise Vigen Guroian offers an abundant vision of the spiritual life found in the cultivation of God's good

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Overview

The garden is a personal place of retreat and delight and labor for many people. Gardening helps us collect ourselves, much as praying does. For rich and poor- it makes no difference- a garden is a place where body and soul are in harmony.

In Inheriting Paradise Vigen Guroian offers an abundant vision of the spiritual life found in the cultivation of God's good creation. Capturing the earthiness and sacramental character of the Christian faith, these uplifting meditations bring together the experience of space and time through the cycle of the seasons in the garden and relate this fundamental human experience to the cycle of the church year and the Christian seasons of grace.

The tilling of fresh earth; the sowing of seeds; the harvesting of rhubarb and roses, dillweed and daffodils-Guroian finds in the garden our most concrete connection with life and God's gracious giving. His personal reflections on this connection, complemented here by delicate woodcut illustrations, offer a compelling entry into Christian spirituality.

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Editorial Reviews

Frederica Mathewes-Green
Elegant and deeply touching—an ideal combination of description, personal story, and devotional insight. These essays are so lovely and evocative that they make even a nongardener like me long to pick up a trowel.
Touchstone
Guroian's book is unique and very special, and will appeal to many readers who ordinarily would not venture into the heady realms of theology of spirituality.... Its richness prohibits quick and easy absorption and it calls for careful, prayerful reflection. Indeed Inheriting Paradise is a book to turn to throughout the cycle of the seasons, natural and liturgical, again and again.
Lutheran Libraries
"Guroian suggests at the outset that "gardening is nearer to godliness than theology." In seven meditations which establish parallels between his earthly garden's natural seasons and the Christian liturgical year, he proceeds to illustrate his suggestion most successfully.... Gardeners will respond warmly to Guroian's joyful and thoughtful meditations. Non-gardeners will want to begin delving and composting at once! Highly recommended."
Cathedral Age
"A charming and inspiring, densely packed small book.... An elegant book, with deep personal insights, Inheriting Paradise should be read with care and kept for further inspiration."
Barbara Brown Taylor
In Vigen Guroian's garden there is no border between the sacred and the secular. Buried turtles, crushed grapes, fragrant lilacs, and budding tomato stakes all become sacraments of paradise, fertilized by his rich mix of Orthodox theology and personal reflection. Even those with no dirt under their fingernails may find comfort and challenge in this testament to the resilience of divine life.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802845887
Publisher:
Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:
04/01/1999
Pages:
116
Sales rank:
650,707
Product dimensions:
0.28(w) x 8.00(h) x 5.00(d)

Read an Excerpt

from Chapter I. Inheriting Paradise (pages 3-5)

I AM A THEOLOGIAN and a college professor. I like being both. But what I really love to do—what I get exquisite pleasure from doing—is to garden. I think that gardening is nearer to godliness than theology. I certainly desire the presence of God. But I want the tomatoes and squash, also the wild geese and the chickadees who in winter enjoy a repast of the seeds that have fallen on the ground. The geese and the chickadees don't know this, but I think of them as a part of my garden. I think if we all gardened more, they and all of the other birds that fly in the air above and light in my garden below would be better off. I know that God values them no less than I do. So when I plant in spring I also hope to taste of God in fruit of summer sun and sight of feathered friends.

Even in desolate January when I look over the gray and frozen earth, I dream of green paradise. The prophet Ezekiel says: "The land now desolate will be tilled, instead of lying waste for every passer-by to see. Everyone will say that this land which was waste has become like a garden of Eden" (Ezekiel 36:34-35, REB). That is my hope when I garden.

But don't get me wrong. I am not a romantic about such things. I take long hikes with Scarlett, my Irish setter, through a beautiful lay of woods and meadows near our home, where rare and unusual wildflowers grow on sparse rocky soil. Romantics say they find God in nature, and maybe they do. But one might just as easily not find God in nature, only nature itself. Our natural surroundings, however, possess the remarkable capacity to rouse us from an insensate slothfulness that sin has brought about. When I go hiking, the sylvan beauty alone is not what stimulates my senses. There is the ache in the legs and the deep breathing of the hillside climb, the discomforting dampness of morning dew on my clothes, and the soiled sweat of afternoon sun on my brow.

When I garden it is nearly the same. In March I labor with spade and hoe and plant peas and cabbage in the cold damp clumps of earth. By June the peas and cabbage are ready, but the weeds have sprung up too and the insects have arrived. I can hardly keep up with these invaders of my impossible paradise. In the heat of summer sun the sweat streams down my back. I am the first Adam expelled from Eden, not the second Adam in paradise.

The Christian knows that while tending the garden there are no easy strolls with God. It is not that gardening is valueless or purposeless or wants of reward. But the fruit of sweet communion comes after the gall and the vinegar. The mystical enjoyment comes not without the toilsome struggle of raking and sowing and pulling up the weeds. In my garden the thistle grows more easily than the primrose. Sin grows in my body more readily than purity, and the keys to my garden do not admit me back through Eden's gate. Nevertheless, my garden is a place away from that first home, a spot where labor lends substance to my living while I amin this mortal frame. Birth and renewal are signs that anticipate and foreshadow paradise.

The seventeenth-century writer William Coles comments: "As for recreating if man be wearied with over-much study (for study is a weariness to the Flesh as Solomon by experience can tell you) there is no better place in the world to recreate himself than in a garden, there be no sence but may be delighted therein." An academic can relate to that weariness of study, a gardener to Coles's delight in the experience of the senses in the garden.

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