Arrayed in Splendor
All that We Have: The Christmas Trees of Saint Andrew’s
Published on December 27-28, 2014 in the Parish Bulletin of Saint Andrew Catholic Church, Harrodsburg KY
At the end of the Mass for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, I blessed the new Christmas trees that now grace our sanctuary for our celebration of the Solemnity of the Lord’s Nativity. All of them are artificial Fraser firs, a type of evergreen that is native to the Appalachian mountains of our region. Most of them are pre-lit, but a few are lit with Christmas lights donated by Patricia Biggs and Mary Jane Trimble.
The towering twelve-foot tree was donated to our parish by Margaret Sanders through her parents, David and Corazon McPherson. It is decorated with the chrismons made by Margaret Mary S. Dumstorf that were given to us by her brother, the Rev. Henry B. Schuhmann, who was pastor here from 1983 to 1989.
One of the seven-and-a-half foot trees was donated by Nathan and Virginia Biggs. The other three of that size were bought by the parish with the surplus that we had received in the fund for the Christmas Flowers last year.
The two six-and-a-half foot trees and one four-and-a-half foot tree were donated by Gordon and Patricia Biggs. The rest of the smaller trees in the sanctuary and in the other shrines around the Church are the ones that we have had from years past.
The Christmas tree traces its roots to the tree of paradise that was featured in the medieval mystery plays. That tree was adorned with apples to represent the fruit that our first parents were forbidden to eat. Those apples have since evolved into the red balls that are often used to decorate the modern Christmas trees.
The chrismons that adorn our tallest tree, with their images from Sacred Scripture (Noah’s ark, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Star of David, et cetera) also evoke the Tree of Jesse, the pictorial representation of the genealogy of Jesus as it is found in the Gospels according to Matthew (1:1-17) and Luke (3:23-38). The genealogy found in Matthew is the first part of the Gospel that is proclaimed in the Vigil Mass for Christmas.
The Christmas trees are meant to be illumined after the prayer of blessing. The lights signify Christ, “the true light, which enlightens everyone, [and] who [is] coming into the world” (Jn. 1:9) and the trees “arrayed in splendor remind us of the life-giving cross of Christ” (Book of Blessings 1587, 1596), the “tree of life and light” by which the Lord Jesus Christ “rescued us from the darkness of sin.”
These Christmas trees then call to mind the reason why we needed a Savior (our fall from grace, no thanks to the fruit of one tree) and the manner by which He has saved us (His death on a cross that had been made from the wood of another tree). They are a fitting backdrop to the scene of our Lord’s birth, evoking not only the dark past of our sinfulness but also the dazzling future that His death and resurrection has in store.