Basil and Sunflower

Forgive me, my big fat green thumb is pounding this post out.

I was sitting here after breakfast, drinking my coffee, and I looked over to the window. This little faithful basil plant is sitting on the sill – it has provided us with so many leaves these past couple of weeks, freshening every dish it touches. I said to myself, “That’s funny, all the leaves and stems are turned towards the window. Funny plant…” I, then, hit myself on the forehead, as naturally the plant goes to the sun. I kept looking and just smiled, because there are pairs of leaves at the top of each stem that open up so confidently, almost trying to hug the sun as it beams down. 

I kept looking and was reminded of a beautiful site I saw in 2011, when I was walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostella. We turned around a bend, our sight previously obscured by a little pocket of trees. Around this bend, was a sea of yellow, spotted with attentive brown dots. The two top broad leaves open, just as these basil leaves stretched to take in all of the sun rays they could, taking in just what the sunflower needs to grow and to be nourished. 

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I couldn’t help but think of the essence of prayer and our relation with God. Yes, it’s a stretch analogically, but it also shows just how natural prayer should be, and thus, how great a gift prayer is – as by the grace of Our Lord – it becomes supernatural. When I saw the leaves outstretched, I saw the orans. I was able to imagine the arms of the priest stretched out – praying. I thought about the nutritive soul of the plant – having the capacity to grow, nourish itself, and reproduce. The human being is also able to perceive and to move (as all animals can), but unique to man, the human being can reason. This gives such a greater dignity to all the powers of the human soul shared by plants and animals – nutrition, growth, reproduction, memory, locomotion. And this dignity is heightened beyond our capabilities, beyond our imagination, by the grace of God. So when we reach out our hands in prayer – God is working in us, it isn’t just the fulfillment of our natural desire to see God, but it’s the very gift of God Himself that comes down to us. 

Oremus -
Collect – Holy Mass – Solemn Profession at Monastery of Acquapendente

And so, how necessary it is to go before God, to open our arms in prayer, true prayer in the Church. It’s only then that the rays of the Son, His Grace, His very Life, will give us strength, growth, life, love. 

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Orans – From the catacombs of S. Domitilla, Rome

And, well, you deserve a recipe after that enticing title above:

Sunflower seed pesto: [preparation begins a day in advance]

Sunflower seed pesto:

  • 1/2 cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 2 cups (packed) arugula (rocket) leaves
  • 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt

Servings: 4-6

Rinse sunflower seeds, put in a small bowl or jar, and add cold water to cover seeds by 1 inch. Cover; soak overnight at room temperature. Drain and rinse seeds.

Purée sunflower seeds, garlic, arugula, basil, oil, honey, and lemon zest and juice until smooth. Season with salt. Thin pesto with water, if too thick.

Use this pesto with pasta, as a spread for bruschetta (always nice to add some fresh mozzarella or burrata). 




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