We ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and tasted the result of that misuse of our free will. One need only look around our world to see the consequences of this moral evil and disobedience to the All Good God. It is of note that the fruit of the tree of life was also prohibited; as they had no immediate need of its fruit. Christ was hung on a tree for our transgressions and bore all of our iniquities . . . and the tree of life has now become, though still a mystery, a little less mysterious.This thought of the Tree of Life, the Holy Cross, bearing the dead body of our own God upon it, brings to my mind the very melancholy and haunting words from a tune that Billie Holiday made popular;
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.
Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.
And so a dead body hanging from a tree is indeed strange fruit and sickeningly painful to think of, though we find our salvation in just such a fruit as this. Christ with twisted mouth, battered, bruised, whipped bloody, crowned with thorns and nailed to a tree and planted into the ground: the Tree of Life for all of mankind for all time. He was raised up so that He would draw the whole world to Him; not as a spectacle but as our very hope of salvation and eternal life. For it seems that God has known from the beginning that man would not be able to receive the gift of free will without abusing the good and bringing evil upon themselves. So the Tree of Life was there from the beginning . . . the fruit of which was God Himself in the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ.
So the Catholic Church has prescribed the remedy of men for two-thousand years to partake of the fruit, this wonderful and strange fruit, that is the Manna from Heaven, the Eucharist and thanksgiving which we share. We eat His Body and drink His Blood and realize that this was indeed His purpose . . . to deliver to us from Heaven the fruit from the Tree of Life to sinful and disobedient humankind now separated from Heaven and the All Good God; our only hope and salvation. So we receive with great joy and thanksgiving remembering both the infinite love of God and also the terrible cost for sin; a strange fruit indeed . . . the mystery above all other mysteries.