Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

In October ~ Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

It's apple season in many parts of the country. The retreat house is just over the New York - Pennsylvania border and so there are apple orchards, barns and stands everywhere. There is a lovely hymn which calls Jesus an apple tree.

The lyrics to that poem/hymn are 18th century American. The later tune is sometimes found among Christmas music collections, though neither has anything to do with Christmas. Rather than just presenting the thoughts of others surrounding the hymn I might offer some new ideas of my own.

Jesus as apple tree, is metaphor of course. A metaphor is a symbolic way of speaking: two things are so closely identified with each other that by symbol they are made to look as if they were one and the same. 

  • She cried an ocean of tears.
  • He died of a broken heart.
  • It's raining cats and dogs.
  • You're the light of my life. 

But why call Jesus an apple tree? Human beings knew to eat apples 6000 years before the birth of Jesus. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," we say. Eating apples is a healthy thing to do. And people who knowingly or unknowingly follow Jesus' simple rule of loving others tend to be healthier and happier. I say unknowingly because there are people of course who are loving but who make no identification with Jesus. Indeed Jesus didn't invent love or a rule to follow the way of love - but he did bring love forward and surely modeled it as no one ever has before. Jesus is good for your health.

Apples are fragrant. The flowers of an apple tree in spring are wonderfully fragrant. Some people put an apple to their noses, inhaling the scent before biting into it. Even the wood of the tree itself has a lovely aroma. Now I'm thinking of that other fragrance which surrounds every Catholic Christian ~ the Chrism of our Baptism and Confirmation - and for the priest, his ordination. 

Chrism is consecrated once a year, just before Easter. And part of its blessing is the adding of fragrances, so when it is applied to the top of our heads, foreheads or hands we smell very nice indeed. The symbolism is: that we would leave behind us the lovely fragrance of Christ wherever we go in this life. 

Perhaps the most successful way of creating new apple trees is by grafting: a branch from one kind of apple tree is cut and attached to the trunk or main stem of another. Oh, to be grafted onto Christ - that his very life would careen in me and that I would be fruitful in his love. And what would that love look like?

"Have no fear of human sin. Love people even in their sin, for that is the semblance of Divine Care and is the highest love on earth. Love all of God's creation. The whole and every grain of sand on it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love." Fyodor Dostoyevsky ~ The Brothers Karamazov


  1. Father, your use of metaphor always serves to make that extra connection that we need. You always make it relevant to our lives.

  2. The quote at the bottom of your post is quite captivating. It embodies all that we must think of when we live on this earth with all the beings around us. No one, should be excluded from our love for any reason. For God loves us all regardless of our gender, our social status, our job standing our ethnicity, our sexual orientation, our intelligence, our physical disabilities. He does not judge us, so neither should we be the judges on this earth.

  3. We're not judged in that God's love is withheld from any of us on this earth, yes. But what judgment there is at life's end - God is like that wonderful teacher who gave us the questions to the big test ahead of time, so we could be best prepared and given every chance of success: Matthew Chapter 25:31-46. It's good to re-visit it in the autumn time.