Sacred Music: Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
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.