Trees, through the ages amaze us. Silent, except for the rustling of their leaves, the swoosh of swaying branches and the occasional frightening crack of a breaking limb. Their fruit feeds millions, their foliage purifies our air, their stems build our shelters, their limbs heat our homes and millions of cooking stoves. They are God’s gift to mankind.
Beyond these, a tree reminds us to pray. Trees grounded to Earth, symbolize how we should be connected to God through prayers. Like a prayer, a tree, metaphorically is strength, beauty and peace. A prayer is one of hope and healing; about living in the moment.
Long ago in my boyhood, I was a sexton in the old Cathedral of the Resurrection in Baguio City. On both sides of the church entrance were huge cypress trees that exuded fresh mint-like scents in the morning. I would pray there while waiting for the gatekeeper to open the doors of the cathedral so I could ring the bells every 6 am. I loved sitting under the cypress trees, with my thoughts, feelings, pains and hungry stomach. The birds chirping and squeezing through the thick cypress leaves allowed me to forget time in a while. I call those moments, prayers. Because it is only God who can hear my thoughts, feel my heart.
Closer to home, our city of Baguio used to have more than a million trees, the Japanese International Cooperating Agency (JICA) estimated in 1980. Today, we are closest to the word few. The trees aging well over a century may only be less than 100. The pine trees, survived a World War, but not greed. The old glorious non pine trees, planted by early Americans arch over all of Burnham Park, portraying a false sense of love for trees, as beyond the peripheries, tree cutting is rampant because authorities turn a blind eye.
As one born and raised in Baguio with trees around me, one who attended a school and church bathed in trees and hidden in the wild woods, I rightly value the historic legacy of the trees as I cherish the liturgies of the church, crafted with beautiful words and music. I greatly appreciate trees as I treasure prayers unwritten as I often find myself pausing outside our church on Sunday mornings to look at the tree branches moving in the breeze.
I think that perhaps as beautiful as the world was created, the trees were made by God to remind us to pray, earnestly, to God’s ear in silence, for in matters of the heart, language simply unsaid is better than complexity.