Advent 2017: Christmas Tree Symbolizes Endurance

In December of 2011, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI, received and blessed a spruce from the Zakarpattia region of the Ukraine, about 100 feet tall. It was decorated with 2,500 silver and gold colored baubles.

This tree, said the Holy Father to visiting clergy of the Ukraine, is "a significant symbol of Christ's Nativity because, with its evergreen boughs, it reminds us of enduring life. The spruce is also a sign of popular religiosity in your country, and of the Christian roots of your culture. My hope is that these roots may increasingly reinforce your national unity, favoring the promotion of authentic shared values. Over the centuries your nation has been a crossroads of different cultures, a meeting point for the spiritual richness of East and West. By tenaciously adhering to the values of the faith, may it continue to response to this unique vocation". (VIS)

The Ukraine has a population of about four million and about 8% are Roman Catholic. There are Secular Franciscans in the Ukraine! There is a National Fraternity (Canonically Approbated 2007). They were represented at the 2011 General Chapter at Soa Paolo, Brazil. And, Ukraine has quite a history of suffering, particularly during World War II. About ten million people lost their lives during that war in that area. It has been my experience that where there is or was suffering, you will find Franciscans!

Getting back to Christmas trees, the Spruce (Genus: Picea) has about 35 species, and one of those we know best is the Norway Spruce. There is one such Norway Spruce in the mountains of western Sweden, nicknamed Old Tjikko, which at an age of 9,550 years are claimed to be the world's oldest known living trees. I don't know if this is what the Holy Father was thinking of, but that is an enduring tree!

Carpathian/Ukrainian Spruce is from the Caucasus and Carpathian Mountains that surround the Black sea. This wood is ideal in the making of quality guitars, violins, cellos and other string instruments. Some compare this tree to the Adirondack Spruce. In formal scientific studies of spruces in the Ukraine, using DNA, pollen have been found to be around 15,000 years old.

Catholic Values and Teachings are considered enduring. No matter how the little rules change, the big, foundational rules remain the same. And if we follow them regardless what happens, we are an enduring people. The Church as the Body of Christ is an example of an enduring teaching! And those of us who stay close to Our Savior, and His (our) Mother Mary have enduring Faith.

When you see a beautiful spruce, this Christmas, think how it is known for its endurance, just as Jesus Christ. He endures throughout time. He is forever!


Fred Schaeffer, OFS
December 16, 2011
Essay 584




A Gift of a New Life
A Biography
by Fred Schaeffer, OFS 2019

Secular Franciscan Order
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