Tonight's Evening Prayer Scripture readings include Matthew 21:1-23. Verses 18-19 tell the bizarre account of Jesus rebuking a seemingly poor yet apparently a show-off fig tree. After His rebuke, the fig tree was barren, doomed to boast its meaningless leaves no more. I read in my Bible's commentary that Jesus was not merely picking on the tree because He could; instead He was portraying the destruction of the Temple - an architectural beauty yet hollow of any God-worthy fruit which is evident from Jesus' mad, livid sweep of the Temple the previous day. (verses 12-17) I was pondering the fig tree story and I remembered a partially-related poem I read in the current issue of Image journal:
Figs by Catharine Savage Brosman
They're prelapsarian, a primal food-
Edenic, but without the apple's taint;
and yet to us their form is vaguely lewd,
their veined and velvet innocence, a feint.
Recalling our condition's archetype,
the trellised branches reach across a wall,
and droop onto the grass their burden, ripe
with unearned pleasure, guilty since the fall.
In blitzkrieg, mockingbirds dive down to feed,
attacking one another and the fruit,
which bruises, splits, and oozes juice and seed,
returning sweet confection to the root.
The foliage is sensual and wise,
notched triangles of glossy chlorophyll,
the model for nude statues' stone disguise,
old Eve and Adam's aprons needed still.
Along the trunk there's damage, though: dark sores
where limbs were severed by a hurricane,
the blackened lips of gashes, insects' bores-
as if the garden suffered with our pain.
Fruit, branches, leaves, and trunk-the ancient tree,
our mortal testament, is also life,
as Christ foresaw it in Gethsemane,
atonement blossoming from tears and strife-
the fig tree of the parable made fresh
by dung and water and the work of time,
our bodies' passion fertilizing flesh
for ransoming, in holy paradigm.