Faced with persecution in their own country at the end of the seventeenth century, French Protestants sailed to join the Dutch, who shared their Reformed religion, in the Cape of Good Hope. Thinking ahead they brought with them vines together with acorns from which to grow oak trees needed for the wine barrels.
So majestic were the oaks grown in Franschhoek (French Corner) at the Cape that acorns were brought back to France in the 1920s to adorn the South African memorial to the dead of World War I at Delville Wood.
It is, perhaps, a parable of mutual enrichment and the fruit that can come both from violence and gentleness. Teilhard de Chardin said that there is no reality that is only profane for those who know how to look. There is nothing that is outside the realm of the sacred, whether life itself or all the doings of men and women.
In the depths of the agony of the people of Gaza, recorded day after day on our screens (a blessing on them!), we see Gethsemane once more. Israel sees only the iniquity of its opponents. It fails to see that it has driven a people to the brink of despair. Israel has been dealing with God for four thousand years. How come they have not learnt of his compassion, of his “suffering-with” his people?
The Jewish people themselves have suffered so much. How is it they can then bomb to smithereens a people who are weak and almost defenceless? “My sorrow is so great,” Paul told the Romans, “my mental anguish so endless, I would willingly be condemned and cut off from Christ if it could help my brothers of Israel.”
Homo sapiens, we are told, has been around for 200,000 years but only moved out of Africa 50,000 years ago. Africa’s gift to the world was people, who migrated and spread over the whole planet. Some of these people, many millennia later, returned to Africa to enslave and colonise.
Our world is full of contradiction, mighty winds and gentle breezes. It is our task “to look”, as Teilhard says, and see what is going on and what we can do where we are to make acorns into oak trees.Post published in: Opinions & Analysis