Adam lived in Eden, was married to Eve and had one son that was a bad apple. Adam’s first son, Cain, was also a gardener, well actually a ploughman who tilled the earth and while doing so apparently tilled greed. Adam was the second gardener on this earth; God of course being the first.
The name of Adam is said to be connected with the Hebrew word ha-adamah (the ground) in a similar manner that in Latin homo is related to humus. Both refer to him as being of the earth. Adam was created not only of the earth but initially to attend to it in joy and recreation. The necessity of labor became apparent only after he and Eve had made a very serious mistake when it came to the Tree of Paradise.
This tree has its own familiar presence in our lives. In the tradition of the Eastern Church the feast day of Adam and Eve, whom they consider saints, is December 24th.It was on this date that a Paradise Tree was decorated with red apples that represented the forbidden fruit. At some point during the 1500’s communion wafers were added to represent the Eucharist, the fruit of life. Shortly thereafter the Roman Church discontinued the Feast of Adam and Eve and eliminated the practice of the Paradise Tree, which then had been renamed the Christbaum or Christ Tree in Germany, which we now call a Christmas tree.
The tradition of a Christ Tree would not fade away from Catholic families, though some concessions were made to meet the directives of the pope. With the removal of communion wafers, the Germans created angels, hearts and stars from white pastry dough with humans and animals made from brown dough. Eventually fruits and vegetables honoring the Creator’s creations were made from marzipan and added to the tree. In the 17th century the Christ tree was nick named the sugar tree, and it is no wonder that children waited in eager anticipation for disassembling it on January 6th.
Artist Dianne Cherr, Pomegranite Tree
There is also a story from The Golden Legend, a medieval book of the lives of saints, which tells of seeds taken from the Paradise Tree, that in this story is called the Tree of Mercy. A very aged Adam knew that it wouldn’t be long before he died. Wanting to be forgiven by God, he sent his son Seth to the Garden of Eden to find an oil of Mercy. Well, the garden had been closed by God immediately after they were expelled and only the angles that guarded the entrance were permitted to enter. One of these angels apparently recognized from the words of Seth the hunger of Adam for forgiveness, and fetched a few grains of seeds from the fruit of the Tree of Mercy…apparently no oil had been pressed.
Upon his return home, Seth found his father still alive and shared with him the story of the angel and the seeds.
And then Adam laughed first and then died. And then Seth laid the grains or kernels under his father’s tongue and buried him in the vale of Hebron; and out of Adam’s mouth grew three trees of the three grains, of which trees the cross that our Lord suffered his passion on was made.
We all know as Christians that it is through our Lords passion that mercy was granted to us all, and Adam too was granted the mercy he sought so many centuries ago.
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Margaret Rose Realy is an Advanced Master Gardener with over thirty-five years experience in the green industry and leads workshop and retreats. She is the coordinator of the St. Francis Retreat Center Garden Society, a monthly columnist at CatholicMom.com and blogs about gardening and spirituality at Patheos.com. Look for her book, Cultivating God’s Garden through Lent, available at Amazon in paperback and eBook, via Patheos Press.