Mystery Monk was perplexed, so he decided to seek the advice of the Abbot.
"What's your view on tree hugging?" He asked.
Now the Abbot was perplexed. "I am a great fan of trees, they change with the seasons, they show signs of new life, they are mentioned many times in the good book, but I have to admit I have never hugged one.... Climbed many, does that count as hugging?" Mystery Monk looked at the Abbot with new respect.
"I was young once you know," he smiled, "Why do you ask about tree hugging?"
"I read an article that says hugging trees improves mental health, and I wondered how much of that was spiritual."
"That's an interesting question, and there is a subtle difference between worshipping the creator, and worshipping creation, but it is a nuance that most people wouldn't quite grasp. However, when we engage with nature, we open ourselves up to our creator.... complicated isn't it?!." replied the Abbot.
"We should always encourage people to open themselves up to God, to grow a bit in their faith and understanding." declared the young monk.
"Are you going to suggest that we add tree hugging to our mission programme? asked the Abbot.
"No, I just trying to understand why people would find it helpful."
"Well most trees are beautiful, and are found in beautiful places. If you are struggling with life, I think stepping away from problematic situations and just going to stand outside in a wood, and feeling the breeze, and listening to nature, would certainly help take your mind off your troubles and lower your blood pressure. Then consider, what are they doing when they reach out to the tree. When they wrap their arms around a piece of creation, are they reaching out to the creator, to their shield and defender?"
"Next time I see a suitable tree," declared the young monk, "I shall try this tree hugging lark."
"Well in the meantime I need you to go and collect some books from a church in Stratford."
"Is it the place or nature, or maybe it is both..." he pondered.
People stopped to admire the bedecked trees and there was a feeling of excitment and expectation. Mystery Monk was most impressed.
Gathering the books he had been sent to collect, he headed towards the gardens by the theatre. It wasn't hard to spot the tree. Firstly, because of the glorious covering of knitted yarn, and secondly because of the stready stream of people approaching the tree.
Mystery Monk was touched by how the bedecked tree seemed to draw people to it and the impact it had upon passers by, who stopped to read the names and reflect on those who were no longer alive, even though they were probably strangers, just unknown names on a list. Others had come on a pilgrimage, to remember those they had loved and lost. Those who were missing from family gatherings over the Christmas period.
When he got home, after he handed over the books he had gone to collect, Mystery Monk recounted his visit, as he looked out of the window. The Abbot followed his gaze.
"Now now Young Monk dont get any ideas. I am useless at knitting..."
"You may not be, but God is!" repled Mystery Monk with a smile.
"Whatever gave you that idea!" responded the Abbot.
"Psalm 139:13" replied the young monk and went off in search of some wool.