Saturday, October 7, 2017

Met Ephrem (Kyriakos): The Olive Tree

Arabic original here.

The Olive Tree

The olive tree has been known in our country from ancient times. It is a symbol of peace and mercy. The word 'mercy', eleos, and the word 'olive', elaia, are similar and we repeat in the Church kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy.

The Olive tree is mentioned in the Old Testament, at end of the Flood, when "the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth" (Genesis 8:11). Olive oil and the olive tree are mentioned 140 times in the Bible.

It is mentioned in the Holy Gospel and also in the Qur'an, where a verse says, "God is the light of the heavens and the earth. His light is like a niche in which is a lantern, the lantern in a glass, the glass like a shimmering star,  kindled from a blessed tree, an olive. Its oil almost aglow, though untouched by fire. Light upon light! God guides to His light whomever He wills..."*

Here let us recall that in the Mystery of Baptism, we anoint our children with oil upon which the priest has prayed, saying, "The servant of God (name) has been anointed with the oil of gladness in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen... for the healing of soul and body (on the chest and back), for hearing the faith (on the ears), (on the hands and feet) to work and walk in Your ways O Lord." Then the child is plunged into the water and rises three times, as a symbol of death and the resurrection. This reminds us that soldiers' bodies were anointed with oil before going off to battle and death so that they might be saved from the enemy's arrows.

The olive tree can live for over a thousand years and is evergreen. Olive oil is extracted from it, which is good for eating, in addition to being used in the production of soap. Olive wood is used to make household utensils, as well as being used for heating, as is what is left over from the fruit after pressing.

We will also mention here other benefits of olive oil and the olive tree for other occasions and purposes, including welcoming the Lord Christ on Palm Sunday, during the famous procession, with palm and olive branches decorated with flowers.

Additionally, people who fast during days of fasting, when they refrain from animal products, rely on olive oil for meals based on plants that the earth produces in springtime. Last but not least, we will mention that olive oil is used as the oil of chrism, "the oil of holy anointing", which grants the gifts of the Holy Spirit, indicating the divine virtues and eternal life. Let us not forget that it is used as a medicine in prescriptions: remember the Good Samaritan who used oil and wine to dress the wounds of the man who fell into the hands of thieves (Luke 10:34).

I say all of this, beloved, in order to remind you to preserve this tree, the olive tree blessed by God, which constitutes a precious, valuable inheritance for us in al-Koura. We who live on this land must never neglect the olive trees. Let us always have this concern form them, based on faith and not only on financial benefit, so that we may care for our livelihood and participate with our hands in our livelihood from the olive tree. The Lord always rewards us with this work in order to assure our sustenance and, especially, our salvation and the well-being of our country.

Metropolitan of Tripoli, al-Koura and their Dependencies

*Here (and always on this blog), I use Tarif Khalidi's translation of the Qur'an. You should too. It's far and away the best in English.

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