“While the diabolical tree of bitterness, anger and wrath has its roots kept moist by the foul water of pride, it blossoms and thrives and produces quantities of rotten fruit.” –Mark the Ascetic, Letter to Nicolas (p. 154)
“Keep the humility of the Lord in your heart and never forget it.” –Mark the Ascetic, Letter to Nicolas (p. 154)
Trees have always held special significance for Christians. We hear about them in Genesis when God places two trees in the midst of the Garden, the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2.9). In Psalm 1 we are told that the one who meditates on the Law of the Lord day and night is like a tree planted by streams of water that bears fruit in season. And, John, in his revelation, proclaims the presence of the tree of life in the heavenly Jerusalem, which is for the healing of the nations (Rev 21.2, 14).
In our own lives we find many trees as well. Mark speaks of one tree in particular as the “diabolical tree of bitterness, anger and wrath,” the “tree of disorder.” This is the tree that produces all sorts of fruits of unrighteousness, and it “has its roots kept moist by the foul water of pride.” We wake daily only to find that its roots have grown even deeper, making our struggle that much more difficult. We feel overcome by the desires of anger, lust, laziness, and bitterness, as this tree produces nothing but “rotten fruit.”
What does Mark suggest that we do about this? His advice is that we dry up its source of nourishment, the “foul waters of pride.” This comes only from keeping the humility of the Lord always in our heart. And, once this wicked tree has lost all life we are to cut it down with the “axe of the Spirit,” so that it may be cast into the fire. Instead of rooting ourselves in the waters of pride, we, as believers, are to root ourselves in the Scriptures. Remember Psalm 1? The one who meditates on the Law of the Lord both day and night has his roots planted by streams of water, and bears fruit in season. The Scriptures provide that nourishment for our souls by leading us to Christ.
Furthermore, the Scriptures bring us to the tree of life in the heavenly Jerusalem. It bears fruit at all times; “its leaves are for the healing of the nations” and the healing of our souls. It is the tree on which our Savior allowed himself to be transfixed as he suffered in humility. But, since we have dried up the old water of pride what are we to replace it with? As the blood and water poured forth from Christ’s side it fell upon the ground. This is what nourishes the tree that we are seeking to cultivate through dwelling in the Scriptures. So, may we allow the Spirit to transform our “tree of disorder” into a “tree of life” by rooting ourselves in the Scriptures, seeing and embracing he who humbled himself for our sake, even to the point of death, “through Christ Jesus our Lord. May He be glorified through all the ages. Amen!”
“Let us thank the One Who gave to taste His Fruit on our tree.” –St. Ephrem
“His Fruit was mingled with our human nature to draw us out toward Him Who bent down to us. By the Fruit of the Root He will graft us onto His tree.” –St. Ephrem