My neighbor has several fig trees. His children are now in the process of wrapping them up for the winter –New England is not an agreeable place to raise fig trees all year.
The opening prayer for Mass today speaks of “the constant gladness of being devoted to you [that is, God]” because God is “the author of all that is good.” This gladness, this happiness, and good is always lived in posture of hope. Symbolically, in many ways the fig is a tangible sign of happiness and goodness. In the Bible the fig tree is posited as figure of these virtues. Variously the fig is interpreted as symbolic of the good, of peace, personal and national prosperity, safety, concern for the other, personal and national fulfillment, and probably the most important, the Promised Land.
Likely to be the most spoken of tree is the fig. Our first parents cover themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7), as a sweet and satisfying fruit is the fig (1 Kings 4:25) and if you need shade when you study the Word of God outside you would sit under a fig tree (John 1:48) or if you need a spring fruit for the table you would have figs (Hosea 9:10). So, it’s no surprise that the Lord uses the fig to illustrate a point in the synoptic gospels about being a disciple and of the Church.
Based on today’s Scripture readings, the poem “When Fig Leaves Sprout” by Minnesota composer William Beckstrand captures the sense of what we are about in the Christian life.
When fig leaves sprout, the summer’s near;
Just so, when sun and moon grow dim,
This earth and heav’n will pass and Christ
Will come and raise the dead with him.
This coming Christ, who
once for all
A sacrifice for sin’s dark stain
Has offered, will bring back to
All those who sleep, for doom or gain.
Secure with Jesus, Advocate
pleads for us at God’s right hand,
We daily work to do God’s will,
And wait His
coming stern and grand.