Apple Trees: Symbols Of Spiritual Maturing

Apple Trees: Symbols Of Spiritual Maturing

The freshness of apple orchards delights us in the Fall; the fruit beckons us to enjoy its crunchy moistness. Each has its own beauty, perfection and uniqueness given it by God. Aren’t we like this too? Apple trees tell us about our own growth and maturing.

Somewhere I read: “The trees of nature fruitless be compared with Christ the Apple Tree.” (Elizabeth Postern) The Father prepared the orchard of earth for Christ. In his adult life he could say that he was the vine and we the branches. So, to compare Him and us to an apple tree and its fruit isn’t so far fetched.

God loves gardens. He wanted to share his creativity and fruitfulness with everything into which he had breathed life and thus placed seeds in each plant so it could increase and multiply. Apple trees illustrate this truth. Some trees need little care; apple trees need alot. In order to bear fruit, they need help: good ground, seasons, pollination, pruning, sun, fertilizer, adequate water, insects to pollinate, spraying and mostly an attentive gardener.

Apple trees demand patient waiting so that abundance can happen cyclically. A lean season often produces a harvest of plenty the next year. In the meantime, the tree doesn’t give up. It keeps growing and absorbing the richness from the soil in which it’s planted; it reaches for sunlight, nourishing rain, snow, ice and wind. Because of these elements it grows stronger each day. Without these, its yield would be wimpy at best. Getting rid of things which could kill it, and pruning the dead away so it doesn’t drain off precious sources of life is vital. If the tree could speack, it might say, “Let me alone! Let me bear fruit without this pain and trouble. I’ll do it my way!” Sound familiar?

Christ is our Master Gardener. He promised us life in abundance (John 10:10). He never said it would be easy, but said he’d always be with us. His life, light, love and presence flow through us as does the energizing sap in the apple tree. He’s our good ground, the sunshine of our love, our living water. He prunes us to bear more fruit, grafts us into a community and sends others to pollinate us with their gifts, as we pollinate them. We weather difficult times; each one offers possibility for deeper spiritual maturing. Our fruitfulness will be abundant or skimpy depending on us. With Christ, we needn’t fear.

Of all the care an apple tree receives, I’m sure that, if it could talk, the smelly fertilizer is the least appreciated. Yet, without it, the yield would be inferior. Tribulations can make us bitter or better. We can view them with a poor-me attitude, or can treat them as smelly fertilizer, knowing that each enrich our spiritual maturing toward an improved harvest later on, if we allow it.

Each variety of apple tree develops differently and yields fruit only when it’s ready. No two are the same. No variety claims to be better than another. Each is uniquely beautiful and has specific qualities. Some are best for pies, some for cider, others for taffy apples and many are best right off the tree. God must love apples; he created so many varieties.

All eating apples are believed to have come from a simple wild crab apple. Good trees are still grown by grafting a cultivated species onto a strong root-stock of a wild apple. Apple trees also need others near them to aid their maturing process. Each season of growth is essential for the apple tree; none can be skipped. Each is critical for a rich harvest.

Our spirituality is enhanced throughout our seasons too. We’ve been rooted in Christ and grafted onto Him. As St. Paul attests in his Letter to the Romans (11:16, 18):

If the root is holy, so are the branches…you do not support the root; the root supports you. As the energy-source for the tree, water is not visible; neither is ours: Christ, our Living Water. Tree branches reach toward heaven, so does our spirit. As each apple holds the promise of legacy in its seeds, fruitfulness for the future is guaranteed. We also leave our legacy in the seeds we have produced as assurance that Christ’s love will permeate future generations as he promised.

The mystic, Hildegard of Bingen expressed this reality well:

Those of us who do good are like an orchard full of fruit of good works.

This week, consider the ways in which the apple tree speaks of your spiritual maturing.

How do you see Christ’s presence permeating you as you bear good fruit?

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Written by
Sr Angelita Fenker