Reflections on trees
A response to BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme requesting reflections of religion on trees, as the ash trees of Britain suffer.
Trees are sacred to Christians. Every tree is related to the cross, the tree upon which Christ suffered and died for the salvation of humanity, and all inte
Some Christians symbolically relate trees to the eucharist by returning baptismal and eucharist water to a tree. African Christians celebrate ‘tree planting eucharists’ in which a tree is planted before Mass and cared for afterwards, usually by a deacon. We also have commemorative trees, and woodland burials. Trees feed people, as is symbolised by the olive and fig trees of the gospels. When in Jerusalem, Jesus frequently visited the olive garden of Gethsemane. Recently the Italian farming association, Coldiretti, gave the Pope 500,000 bees to pollinate fruit trees on his farm. Hopefully they will then carry pollen throughout the peninsula. The Pope, who has on his farm at Castel Gandolfo an olive and an apricot and peach orchard, addressed the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations urging it to achieve the goal of its constitution ‘to guarantee nutritional development, the availability of food products and the development of rural areas, so as to ensure that humankind is free from hunger.’rrelated creation. The Irish poet, Joseph Mary Plunkett, wrote beautifully, ‘His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn. His cross is every tree’. I call your attention to the Irish American Joyce Kilmer’s little poem ‘Trees’. It has been put to music and is part of literate American culture.
Dr Edward P. Echlin (Research Fellow in Theology, Leeds Trinity University College, Visiting Scholar, Sarum College, Salisbury; author of Climate and Christ, A Prophetic Alternative (Columba, 2010).
The BBC replied that the poem ‘Trees’, put to music and sung by Paul Robeson, is to be broadcast on Sunday 4 November.
Another source of material about trees is A Rocha’s 2012 Environment Resource Pack: The Life of Trees and the Tree of Life
I see his blood upon the rose
I see his blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of his eyes,
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the skies.
I see his face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but his voice—and carven by his power
Rocks are his written words.
All pathways by his feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
His cross is every tree.
Joseph Mary Plunkett
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain
Poems are made by fools like me
But only God can make a tree.
— Joyce Kilmer