Ed, my neighbor next door, was really indifferent when I wanted to tell him about our visit to The Grotto, in Portland, Oregon. The more I tried to tell him about it, the less he wanted to hear. I finally gave up when he observed that a 62 acre garden that doesn’t sell produce is ridiculous. Ed scoffed at hearing about a garden for outdoor summer church services and a place of solitude, peace and prayer.
“I bet only a few weird people like you have ever visited it,” Ed asserted.
I did not reply to Ed’s assertion. Instead, I offered him an apple and some plums from my garden and a nice big red tomato. Ed’s distaste for gardens, big or small, doesn’t trouble him when offered fruit and vegetables that he likes to eat. Why it doesn’t bother him that they are from a despised garden I’ll never understand. The only valid garden for Ed is one that provides vegetables or fruit Gardens producing flowers and shrubs are a waste of time and money. Don’t ever tease Ed that he may end up gardening as a hobby in retirement, as his reply to you will need to be censored.
The Bible speaks of a garden in Jerusalem known as the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a garden of olives trees where Jesus took his disciples to pray. It offered him a place of solitude, peace and prayer. It became the place of his betrayal by Judas and His arrest.
It is an ever-changing world, but the more it changes the more it stays the same. Another name for a grotto is a cave. In ancient times, often caves had a spring of water in them. In the Roman era, homes were built beside the caves with a supply of water. Wealthy homes often had gardens developed by the grotto and statues of their gods and goddess were found there. They were places of beauty, solitude, peace and prayer.
The Christian world has had many grottos, shrines, and gardens through the years also. The Grotto at Portland, Oregon is a famous present day one. Father Ambrose Meyer was serving in the Archdiocese of Portland in 1923 and found property ideal for his dream of developing a beautiful garden of prayer. The asking price was $48,000.00, but Father Mayer offered all he had which was $3,000.00. His offer was accepted and in the base of the 110 foot basalt cliff, a grotto or cave was carved out of the stone cliff for the altar. Above the altar was placed a full-sized replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta. In 1983, The Grotto was designated a National Sanctuary. Through the years, more than ten million visitors of all faiths have marveled at this natural garden in the huge Pacific coastal trees.
We know that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. A beautiful church or garden can encourage us to pray, but Jesus gives us the guidance that is most important. He says, “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling (with many words); your Father knows what you need before you ask it.”