Happy feast of the Epiphany, and a very merry welcome to “Like the Cedars”—the blog of the novitiate at Queen of Peace Monastery in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada.
If you look at our sidebar and links, you can find out more about our monastery, other nuns of the Order of Preachers and our Dominican family as a whole (plus, the 800th Jubilee of our Order!). Our goal for this blog is for our families and friends to keep up with how we are (yes, the nuns do feed us), to share some of the fruits of our contemplation and perhaps even to let young discerning women catch a glimpse of what it might mean to be “free for God alone” in the heart of the Order of Preachers and in the midst of the Canadian wilderness.
First things first, though—why did we decide to call this blog “Like the Cedars”?
We were inspired by Psalm 92, which reads:
The righteous will flourish like palm trees;
They will grow like the cedars of Lebanon
They are like trees planted in the house of the Lord,
that flourish in the Temple of our God,
that still bear fruit in old age
and are always green and strong.
Novitiate—and the whole of life, really—is a school of charity, where we learn to grow in love of God, love of neighbour and even love of self as a person made and infinitely loved by God (that means you!). Planted in “the house of the Lord”, we hope to grow straight and true like the cedars of Lebanon—or, more aptly, like the giant Pacific red cedars which flourish all along the northwest coast of Canada and America.
That leads to a second reason for our name. One day, in our monastic history class, we were talking about the Desert Father St. Anthony the Great. Pestered by some rather pompous philosophers, who inquired as to how St. Anthony coped without access to a library full of books, he replied, “My book, philosopher, is nature, and thus I can read God’s language at will.” Well, thank God that we have access to both books and trees! But as St. Bernard of Clairvaux says, “Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” Living where we do, living the way we do, we see more trees in a day than we see people in a decade. In Laudato Si (paragraph 84), Pope Francis writes: “Our insistence that each human being is an image of God should not make us overlook the fact that each creature has its own purpose. None is superfluous. The entire material universe speaks of God’s love, his boundless affection for us. Soil, water, mountains: everything is, as it were, a caress of God.”
In that way, the Squamish valley cedars are part of our community—or we, part of theirs, as we walk among them, learn from them and seek refuge in their shade.
Finally, our monastery is gratefully located on the traditional territory of the Squamish Nation (Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw). The cedar tree played an integral role in traditional Coast Salish art and culture, and that is something we wish to honour.
Today is the feast of the Epiphany—the day when, after following a star, three wise kings entered Bethlehem to find Christ and his family. In traditional Christian iconography, St. Dominic is often depicted with a star above his forehead, and the people who knew him said that a radiant light shone about his face.
Here at Queen of Peace, when we look the North Star shining overhead after Compline, or the single morning star still lingering after Matins and Lauds, we are daily reminded to continue following and seeking the Light, just as our brother Dominic and the three wise kings did so long ago.