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  • Sarah Raad

Symbiosis

The corn would not grow as tall and the beans would not reach as far if there was no winter squash like me in the Garden of God…

Christ as Gardener (Girolamo da Santa Croce)

Historically, the native Americans of North America planted three main crops, which they called the three sisters. Theses crops were winter squash, corn and climbing beans. And there was a logical reason for the decision of the Native Americans to plant these particular crops close to each other…


You see, the three crops supported each other...


The beans contributed nitrogen to the soil which was good for the other crops. And the corn stalks formed a trellis for the beans to climb, and the twining of the vines of the beans around the corn stalks stabilised the plants during periods of intense wind. Then, the winter squash plant grew in a spreading manner along the ground, and in this way it held the moisture into the soil and prevented weeds from growing around the other crops.


This method of farming is a practical demonstration of the biological phenomenon of symbiosis. Symbiosis occurs when living organisms co-exist and provide mutual benefit through their coexistence.

And I have been reflecting on the symbiosis in this traditional native American farming over the last few days, because it reminds me of the Communion of Saints…

You see, the Communion of Saints has been provided to us so that we too can co-exist to provide mutual benefit to each other, and we can work together to do this because within the Communion of Saints there exists every soul that ever was, ever is and ever will be. And together, all of these souls – past, present and future – can give Glory to God.


For we are within the Communion of Saints like the various plants are within the crops – the winter squash, corn and climbing beans…


You see, the souls who are in Heaven and in Purgatory who pray for our salvation, are like the climbing beans, which add nitrogen to the soil, where the nitrogen is the Grace for which they petition, and which God grants for love of them (and us). These souls stretch out their prayers over other souls to support and strengthen them, just as the beans grow over the corn to strengthening them when the winds blow.


The souls who are the canonised Saints and those who bear the crushing burden of the truly terrible crosses – where they endure periods of such suffering as the rest of us may never imagine – are like the corn. They grow straight and strong and true and it is by watching those souls soar to wonderous heights of sanctity that the other souls – like mine – can follow their example to learn something of sanctification grow in sanctity.


And then there is the winter squash, the poor humble little plants which only ever grows close to the ground. And yet, even in its lowliness it serves a purpose in smothering the weeds and trapping moisture for the other plants. And I love this plant, because the winter squash most closely resembles my poor little soul. You see, my soul is like that winter squash because it will never soar to wonderous heights… My soul will never be remembered. My soul is nothing terribly remarkable. I am not visible in the distance or notable in the crowd. And yet, poor, little insignificant little me has been given such an honour by my Beloved – God, Lord, King and Creator of all the Universe – has honoured me even in my misery… For I too can also offer the triviality of my own little life to God and in this way, I too can give Him glory.


For the corn would not grow as tall and the beans would not reach as far if there was no winter squash like me in the Garden of God…


And when I think of such an honour for a miserable soul like mine, I cry tears of joy… For how could I ever thank God for such an honour as this?


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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