Monday 19 December - Jesus Christ the Apple Tree (Elizabeth Poston)

CD Cover

Sung by the choir of Holy Trinity Church, Guildford.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum,
super quem continebunt reges os suum,
quem Gentes deprecabuntur:
veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare.
O Root of Jesse, standing as a sign among the peoples;
before you kings will shut their mouths,
to you the nations will make their prayer:
Come and deliver us, and delay no longer.

Tree-like imagery surrounds Christmas, whether it's from the Germanic tradition of the decorated evergreen tree, or the apple tree as a part of the greater story of sin and redemption, or "A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." (Isaiah 11:1), to which today's antiphon refers. Jesus is decribed as the "tree of life" a number of times in the Bible, and the apple tree in particular is used in the Song of Solomon as a metaphor for him (see the fourth verse.)

Elizabeth Poston wrote this setting of "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree" in the 20th century, to much earlier words by an unknown author, "J. H.", some time in the mid-eighteenth century.

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.