Sacred Music: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Posted by on February 2, 2014 in Doubt, Sacred Music, women | 7 comments

One of my favorite pieces of sacred music is called Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.  I associate it with Christmas because it usually appears on seasonal albums but in fact nothing about the lyrics link it to the Nativity.  I like the imagery of Christ as a fruitful tree, perhaps because the tree image in our faith is so often associated with sin and in particular female sin.  The idea that a fruit tree is in fact a symbol of Christ is something that I find very sweet and comforting, particularly as my home valley is filled with orchards.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
by Elizabeth Poston

 

The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

 
His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see,
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

 
I’m weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

 

I like the parallel between the trees of nature and the tree of Christ — so often the comparison is between the Gospel and the World, as though the world had nothing to offer and was nothing but a den of iniquity.  Yet in this metaphor the trees of nature are only fruitless by comparison.  Peach trees are wonderful and their fruit is sweet, but the fruit of Christ is so sweet and so wonderful that peaches pale in comparison.  Doesn’t mean you can’t have peaches.

I think my favorite line is “This fruit doth make my soul to thrive, it keeps my dying faith alive.” As I have so often struggled with my faith I have never doubted (and I hope I never doubt) Christ or the Atonement.  Christ’s love is His fruit, and it is an anchor in any doubt or wavering faith.

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7 Comments

  1. Lovely. Thank you, Em.

  2. This is one of my favorite melodies; my husband and I have sung it to our children as a lullaby for years. So glad to know that other people feel the same way I do about this carol!

    • This is one of my most favorite pieces of sacred music, too, and I sing it to my kids in the car. Today on the way home from work/school my daughter out of the blue asked for “the apple tree song.” A most delightful request! (Although she didn’t want me to sing it, she wanted me to play it off my phone!)

  3. I first heard this song at the Exponent retreat this past year (in fact, I asked the person who introduced it to me to write a post for this series, so we may have a Christ the Apple Tree: Part II later in the year :) ).

    And, I love that last verse, too. “This fruit doth make my soul to thrive, It keeps my dying faith alive,” makes me cry every time I hear it.

    Thanks, Em, for this lovely post!

  4. This is the first time I have heard this, Em and I LOVED it! It was just what I needed to hear. Thank you :)

  5. I love this, too. Here’s another gorgeous setting of the text: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ueA_eXyLI4

  6. I have heard this lovely hymn several times, sung by choirs at Pacific Lutheran University. (One of my sons graduated from PLU in Music/Organ Performance. Maybe someday I will tell you what BYU was prepared to offer this gifted young man. Not much.) As a gardener/orchardist, I love this piece. “Keeps my dying faith alive”, indeed. Music like this has sustained me through nine years of treatment for an incurable cancer. Thank you for your comforting post!

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