The Manse garden has gone mad these last few weeks! I thought I was bringing it under better control in the spring and have even successfully cultivated three of the half dozen raised beds in the vegetable plot. But May and June have sent the garden into over-drive. Oh for a more able and persistent gardener! And yet, for all its wildness, it is a place of real delight, contemplation and enjoyment.
Deborah and I encountered a remarkable garden on our holiday this year – not of the RHS Wisley type – but a domestic garden of such tranquillity and beauty it refreshed our spirits. It was while we were in the South of Spain, at Ronda: a Moorish garden set in a courtyard with running water, ample shade and the fragrance and visual delight of Mediterranean planting. It offered such refreshment in the Spanish heat. I have subsequently discovered that the biblical word for Paradise has its root in the Persian word for garden and that makes a great deal of sense.
The story of our salvation in the Bible is framed by stories about gardens. The Garden of Eden represents the paradise we have lost because of our disobedience. In the Song of Songs, the garden there symbolises the preciousness and security human love can offer – it is a reminder of the paradise to which we long to return. In the New Testament the death and resurrection are framed by two gardens. On the night of his betrayal Jesus prays in the Garden of Gethsemane. Just as sinful Adam’s wrong choices lose us paradise, Jesus’ decision to face the cross in the Garden of Gethsemane ‘reverses the inevitable course of human history’ – as one commentator puts it. The second garden is that of Jesus’ tomb. On Resurrection morning, Mary confuses the risen Christ in this garden with the gardener. It is a garden of extraordinary discovery and hope. And finally there is that marriage of garden and city which is the New Jerusalem in Revelation. Here the river of life flows from the throne of God. Among the banks grow trees whose fruit will feed and leaves give healing for the nations.
As we enjoy the gardens we keep or visit this summer, it will do us good to connect these simple enjoyments with the amazing story of our redemption as reflected in those remarkable biblical gardens. And perhaps it will inspire me to do a bit more pruning and digging!