Monday, 20 June 2011

Our Lady of the Tree of Life

Our Lady of the Tree of Life by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

There are any number of ways in which the image of the Tree of Life is used in Christian Catholic theology.  The first Tree of Life occurs in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.  This tree was found in the Garden of Eden and was lost to mankind after the Sin of our first parents.

Then Christ Jesus is also known as the Tree of Life for, as He said, "I am the way, the truth and the life"  So, he is in fact the source of Life, itself.  He even said:  "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you cannot have life within you." (John 6) Thus you can find icons which show Christ as the Tree with the branches being filled by prophets, kings and priests -- both those who preceded Christ and those who came after.

Finally, the Blessed Mother is seen as the Tree of Life.  She is perceived as the tree which gave forth the priceless fruit, Christ Jesus.  The icon I have drawn shows our Blessed Mother as the Tree of Life.  She is holding the Christ Child.  At the base of the tree are individuals who are worshipping.  There are a few domesticated animals who also appear somewhat reverent as they rest or graze.  The traditional icon of Mary, Tree of Life shows our Blessed Mother holding the Christ Child, standing where the trunk of the tree would be while the  branches hold various saints, apostles, prophets and so forth -- all looking towards the "trunk" of the tree. (see below)

There is a passage in the book "The Secret of Mary" by St. Louis de Montfort that speaks fully of  Mary as the Tree of Life.  I have quoted much of this section below.

Mary, Tree of Life

Dear soul, have you understood, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, what I have tried to explain to you in the preceding pages? If so, be thankful to God, for it is a secret known and understood by only a few. If you have found the treasure hidden in the field of Mary, the precious pearl of the Gospel, sell all that you have in order to buy it. You must make the sacrifice of yourself to the Blessed Mother, you must disappear in her, so that you may find God alone.
If the Holy Spirit has planted in your soul the true Tree of Life, which is the devotion that I have just explained to you, you must do all you can to cultivate it, in order that it may yield its fruit in due season. This devotion is like the mustard seed of the Gospel, "which is the least indeed of all seeds, but when it is grown up, is greater than all herbs, and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and dwell in the branches thereof," and rest in its shade from the heat of the sun and hide there in safety from the beasts of prey.
This is the way, dear soul, to cultivate it:
This Tree, once planted in a faithful heart, requires the open air and freedom from all human support. Being Heavenly, it must be kept clear from any creatures that might prevent it from lifting itself to God, in Whom its origin lies. Hence, you must not rely on your own skill or your natural talents, on your own repute or the protection of mankind. You must have recourse to Mary and rely on her help alone.
The one in whose soul this Tree is planted must, like a good gardener, constantly watch over it and tend it, for it is a Tree that has life and is capable of yielding the fruit of life. Therefore, it must be cultivated and raised by the steady care and application of the soul; and the soul that would become perfect will make this its chief aim and occupation.
Whatever is likely to choke the Tree or in the course of time prevent its yielding its fruit, such as thorns and thistles, must be cut away and rooted out. This means that by mortification and doing penance, we must suppress and renounce all useless pleasures and vain traffic with creatures. In other words, we must deny the flesh, keep recollected and mortify our senses.
You must also keep watch for insects which might do harm to the Tree. These insects are self-love or love of comfort. They eat away the foliage of the Tree and destroy the fair hopes it gives of yielding fruit, for self-love is opposed to the love of Mary.
You must not allow destructive animals to approach the Tree of Life. By these animals are meant all sins. They may kill the Tree of Life by their touch alone. Even their breath must be kept away from it, namely, venial sins, for they are most dangerous if committed without regret.
It is also necessary to water this Heavenly Tree often with the fervour of piety in our religious practices, in our Confessions and Communions, in all our prayers, both public and private; otherwise, it will stop yielding fruit.
Do not become alarmed when the Tree is moved and shaken by the wind, for it is necessary that the storms of temptation should threaten to uproot it, that snow and ice should cover it, so as, if possible, to destroy it. This means that this devotion will of necessity be attacked and contradicted, but provided we persevere in cultivating it in our souls, we need not fear.
Dear soul, if you thus cultivate the Tree of Life, freshly planted in your soul by the Holy Spirit, I assure you that in a short time it will grow so tall that the birds of Heaven will come to dwell in it. It will be a good tree, yielding fruit of honour and grace in due season, namely, the sweet and adorable Jesus, who always has been, and always will be, the only fruit of Mary.
Happy the soul in which Mary, the Tree of Life, is planted; happier the soul in which she has acquired growth and bloom; still happier the soul in which she yields her fruit; but most happy of all: the soul which relishes and preserves Mary's fruit until death, and for ever and ever. Amen.

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Now here are some interesting bird photos:

A Perfect Landing!
This duck is making a perfect landing.  I love watching the mallards as they come in for a landing when I am over at the water's edge.  They hit the water with those webbed feet and within seconds they settle down on the water with hardly a feather out of place.  Ducks are so graceful when they land and so awkward when they take off.


An Imperfect Landing!
 This poor fellow must not have realized that he was landing on ice and not water.  I do hope he survived this crash!  If he did, I am sure he learned a valuable lesson about the difference between ice and water!


"Perfect love casts out fear"

This gull is no doubt protecting its nest and suddenly has no fear of this raptor -- I can't tell for certain if it is an eagle or a hawk.  Whichever, it could easily have a gull for a mid-day snack, but the protective feelings of a parent truly cast out all fear.


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Finally tonight, I want to show you another drawing I did recently.  I actually should show this one to you as part of my regular blog presentation since I have some interesting variations on this drawing that you may find interesting.  However, I wanted to close with it tonight as I like the way it makes me feel when I look at it.

Still waters at sunrise drawing by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer

Suki was a bit unwell last night so both of us got very little sleep.  She has since taken a number of naps but I haven't had the opportunity to do so myself.  Thus she is now well-rested and playful while I am very tired and a bit grumpy.  I am really looking forward to bedtime!

Well, as Julian of Norwich said:  "All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." 


May the peace of God be with us all.

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