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Sunday, April 22, 2012


Marcescence and other Marvels



“All virtue is a miracle,”
—Augustine


The little oak tree on the other side of our back fence clings to its leaves all winter while other trees loose their foliage. “Marcescence” is the term botanists use to describe the phenomenon. They speak of unformed abscission layers and other arcane causes, but they do not know why some trees refuse to give up their leaves until spring.


I noticed last week, however, that the oak tree was dropping its dead leaves. The process was effortless: One by one the old leaves broke away and fluttered to the ground.


I wondered what brought about this transformation and looked more closely at the tree. I discovered that a tiny new leaf had formed at the base of every stem and had forced the old leaves off the tree.


“Aha!” I said. “A miracle.”


And so it is: All virtue is a miracle. We cannot rid ourselves of the old life and its vestiges. We cannot shoulder the burden of our sanctification any more than we can shoulder the burden of our salvation. Our part is to embrace every day what our Lord is doing in us and count on him to rid us of all that is unworthy.


As we walk with him day after day, taking in his words, seeking to be like him, asking for his help, resting in his wisdom and love, new life will emerge and old things will pass away—silently, slowly, mysteriously, inexorably. “The same God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish...” (Philippians 1:6 The Message).[1] 


So, don’t fret...

go for walks,
live in peace,
let change come quietly and invisibly on the
inside.
—Thomas Merton
DHR



[1] Cf., Psalm 138:7, 8

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