The Tree of Life – 22 April 2019
The painting here by Blake Debassigne of the Tree of Life comes from the tradition of the Anishinabe people (Ojibway), one of the native peoples of North America.
The tree is full of life, with the naked Christ at its center. The tree of the crucifixion is the tree of life. It is a cedar; well rooted, strong, and firmly planted. The cedar is known for its medicinal purposes – this tree is for healing. Christ holds wild roses in his hands, recalling the practice of giving flowers when a person dies.
There are two representations of the Holy Trinity in the picture: the three birds sitting at the tree top, and the three circles above them. The faces in the tree are those who are living today, the birds represent people who have died.
The Tree of Life appears in the first and last books of the Bible. It is a tree in Eden, but access to it is denied when Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden. It appears again in the book of Revelation, part of the new garden of paradise, available now to bring healing to all the people’s of the world.
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.
The tree of life with ev’ry good
In Eden’s holy orchard stood,
And of its fruit so pure and sweet
God let the man and woman eat.
Yet in this garden also grew
Another tree, of which they knew;
Its lovely limbs with fruit adorned
Against whose eating God had warned.
The stillness of that sacred grove
Was broken, as the serpent strove
With tempting voice Eve to beguile
And Adam too by sin defile.
O day of sadness when the breath
Of fear and darkness, doubt and death,
Its awful poison first displayed
Within the world so newly made.
What mercy God showed to our race,
A plan of rescue by His grace:
In sending One from woman’s seed,
The One to fill our greatest need —
For on a tree uplifted high
His only Son for sin would die,
Would drink the cup of scorn and dread
To crush the ancient serpent’s head!
Now from that tree of Jesus’ shame
Flows life eternal in His name;
For all who trust and will believe,
Salvation’s living fruit receive.
And of this fruit so pure and sweet
The Lord invites the world to eat,
To find within this cross of wood
The tree of life with ev’ry good.
Stephen Starke, Lutheran Hymn