The Early Church Fathers taught that the New Testament is hidden in the Old and the Old is revealed in the New. This happens to be one of the most exciting and effective ways to study the Bible and the Catechism.
This method of studying is called "typology" and not surprisingly, was taught by Jesus Christ, Himself, when He said:
John 5:39 You search the scriptures, because you think you have eternal life through them; even they testify on my behalf.
I personally like it because it evokes pictures and associates stories with which we are already familiar from our youth. We all know, for instance, about Moses. But the Early Church Fathers associated Moses with Jesus, because Moses said that God would provide for us a Prophet like himself. And so, they called Jesus, the New Moses. And Jesus is also known as the New Adam, even in Scripture. Hopefully, we'll get to these stories in future articles.
Fruit of the Tree of Life
But today, I'd like to start with, the Eucharist as the "Fruit of the Tree of Life". The first time I heard this, I was very young and I was an atheist. I remember that I was in the 5th grade, in line to go into the school building, when one of the other boys, whose name I no longer remember, began to tell us what he had learned in Catechism. When he said that the Eucharist was the Fruit of the Tree of Life, I understood right away. Although some of the children ridiculed the idea, as kids are prone to do.
Although I was an atheist, I thought the whole thing was really cool. It didn't cause me to run to the Church or anything. That didn't happen for 15 more years. But I could see how neatly it tied back together. And I still think its really cool. So, I'd like to share with you something that I learned that day. And perhaps, if you think its cool, you might share with your children.
It is mentioned once in the Old Testament, right after the Fall of Adam and Eve:
Genesis 3:21 The Lord God made for the man and his wife garments of skin, with which he clothed them. 22 Then the Lord God said: See! The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil! Now, what if he also reaches out his hand to take fruit from the tree of life, and eats of it and lives forever? 23 The Lord God therefore banished him from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he had been taken.
You guys remember the story, right? Adam and Eve were created by God from the dust of the earth. God blew the breath of life into them and commanded them not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Serpent tricked them into eating of that forbidden fruit. And they fell from grace.
And suddenly, there is another forbidden fruit. Because they are no longer righteous, Adam and Eve are forbidden from eating of the Fruit of the Tree of Life.
State of grace
This is directly applicable to us, today. Those of us who are in a state of grace, may partake of the Eucharist. But, if we have committed a mortal sin, we are forbidden from doing so. Why? Because it would be a sacrilege and would simply make our spiritual condition worse.
Is there a precedence for this? Yes. If we continue to read the Old Testament, we come to the part where God introduces the Levitical Priesthood. But there is an elite group amongst them. Only Moses and a few good men who had not sinned were permitted to come before the Real Presence of God, in the Tabernacle. And only righteous men were permitted to touch the Ark of the Covenant and live. And only the righteous will enter heaven and live in the presence of God for all eternity.
So, what does that tell us?
The Real Presence of Jesus Christ
The Eucharist is the Source and Summit of our Faith because it is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This is why we may not partake of the Eucharist if we are in a state of mortal sin. Because the Eucharist is the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary, when we partake of the Eucharist, we unite ourselves to His sacrifice, and thus become united to God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity and receive an outpouring of grace from the Holy Spirit.
You can see then, that it would desecrate the sacrifice if we were to do it in a state of mortal sin. Therefore, Scripture says:
1 Corinthians 11:27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord
The Angel with the fiery sword
Adam and Eve, having fallen from grace, were in a state of mortal sin. That is why they were cast out of Eden, in order that they would not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life and commit sacrilege. This is why, God also, placed an angel at the entry of Eden, to keep them out.
I can imagine, Adam, reaching up to get some of the Fruit of the Tree of Life and the Angel slapping his hand away and saying, "Hey! Haven't you learned your lesson, yet? Get out of here!"
The Cross and the Tree
If Jesus in the Eucharist is the fruit of the Tree of Life, then the Cross is the New Tree of Life. Because the Eucharist is the self same sacrifice of Jesus Christ in Calvary where He hung on the Cross and died for our sins. Therefore, Scripture says:
Galatians 3:13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
The Church, the Sacraments and the Tree
Since we must come to the Church to eat of the Eucharist, the Tree of Life is also an apt symbol of the Church. We can also see this reflected in Scripture where it says:
Revelation 22:1 Then the angel showed me the river of life-giving water, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of its street. On either side of the river grew the tree of life that produces fruit twelve times a year, once each month; the leaves of the trees serve as medicine for the nations.
The Church is the universal Tree which grows on either side of the River which bears the water of life. That River is the Living Water of Christ being poured out by the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments. The twelve fruits are the fruits of the Holy Spirit which God grants to all who worthily submit to the Sacraments. We are the leaves of the Tree, when we spread out and do the works of God in all the nations.
The Blessed Mother and the Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is also an apt symbol of Our Lady. Because she bore the Fruit of Life in her womb and gave Him to the world. Thus Scripture says:
Luke 1:41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, 42 cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
God and the Tree of Life
The Tree of Life is also a symbol for God, the Father, whose Son hung on the Cross for our salvation. It is He whom the Church represents and He who gives His life to us in the grace poured out by the Holy Spirit.
Well, I hope you liked that. I think it is a wonderful lesson to share with young children. It evokes visual images that will spark their imagination and perhaps cause them to seek to learn more about their Catholic Faith.