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Bite into a peach—

and taste and see the goodness of the Lord. How blessed is the person who trusts in him. Psalm 34:8

From choirs and choruses we’re beginning to hear the plaintive carol, Jesus Christ The Apple Tree; its six stanzas suggest lovers like those found in The Song of Songs, attributed to Solomon in the second half of the fifth century, BC.

The Bride speaks: As an apple tree among the trees of the orchard/so is my Beloved among the young men./ In his longed-for shade I am seated/ and his fruit is sweet to my taste. (2:3)

In my perception, the Rev. Richard Hutchins, British author of this eighteenth- century poem, later set to music, experienced a conversion of heart which he was compelled to express: central to his experience was intimacy with the Old Testament lovers and with Jesus of Nazareth, both addressing the resolution of heart-pain from caustic relationships.

The author was also familiar with plentiful apple orchards in Northhamptonshire, and the practice of wassailing them on Christmas Eve.

What jolts the listeners of the carol, however, is the author’s juxtaposing the Apple Tree/Beloved with Jesus Christ, a successful metaphor that mirrors the dynamics of the Kingdom of heaven. Can there be anything as ordinary as an apple tree bearing fruit, season after season? Upon which many depend for survival?

The carol concludes:

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 Appletree.

The ordinary serves us very well, if we know now to approach it.

A chance listening to a mountain dulcimer and a string orchestra performing Connie Elisor’s Blackberry Winter (1997) played upon my imagination: it was all about paradox. Poets like T. S. Elliot and Gerard Manley Hopkins are known for such word-joinings; its experience, in music, however, opened me to other realities.

Juxtaposing succulent blackberries with frigid winds erupted into a honied ache, a puckering of the lips, a twinge of sweetness.

Still other associations flowed: the interlude between hesitant frosts and the full coloring of spring; between the locked door and the opened door; between the angst and discovery within the creative process; between thought and action; between labor and delivery; between losing a significant other and fresh heart-healing; and between the rigors of dying and ultimate surrender: “fall, gall, gash themselves, gold-vermillion.”

It seems like our lives are a succession of blackberry winters.

Such is the glory of our humanness and when overwhelmed, let us not lose heart in our Composer who resides within. Change always comes if we allow it.



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