Words of the Forest from the Maronite Tradition
“Bless o Lord these trees placed under the stewardship of your servants. Let them produce abundant fruits for the joy of those who adore you; protect them from all harming diseases and guard them from all evil…”
(The Maronite Book of Blessings)
From these words, the Maronites learned to bless the fruitful trees. From the beginning, the Maronite Faithful lived a very close relationship with his land and with his God. Psalm 148 was chosen for the daily morning liturgy, teaching the Faithful about the sacredness of nature.
Moreover, meditating on the letter from Paul to the Romans “Creation itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Rom. 8: 21), the Maronites lived their stewardship as a mission to bless and sanctify all elements of creation, including trees and forests.
Our Lady of the Forest
We find in our diocese an old church dedicated to Our Lady of the Forest. It is said that this church was founded by shepherds in the midst of the woods. Those shepherds chose the Virgin Mary as their intercessor, their protector and their companion of the forest.
|Humans who are on watch and trees that bow before Him will receive His abundant blessings, while the reluctant fig tree will be cursed.
Further research shows that this title given to Mary finds deeper roots in our liturgy, in our traditions and in the Scriptures:
In the liturgy, we refer to Mary as the lily of the field, the cedar of Lebanon, the forest of our forefathers, the glorious tree that bore the blameless lamb who saved us..., and the garden of the Kingdom where the tree was planted giving us the fruit of salvation. The tree of life is Christ, and Saints and their prayers are—like their Master—trees that spread their branches across the world.
Trees and Symbolism
Near our old churches, we used to find two trees: the oak tree and the olive tree. It is said that the first village schools were founded in the 18th Century in the cool shade provided by the oak tree. The olive tree provided a generous source of olive oil, a source of light and a symbol of consecration by the Holy Spirit. Its branches decorate the village celebrations and are used to sprinkle holy water over the faithful.
Also, it is our belief that on the night of the Epiphany, the Lord passes by at midnight to bless all of creation: humans and nature. Humans who are on watch and trees that bow before Him will receive His abundant blessings, while the reluctant fig tree will be cursed.
In the Scriptures, there are numerous texts that refer to Mary and contain forest symbols. We may quote the Song of Songs extensively, but we will limit ourselves to two texts. The first from the book of Exodus (3: 2) "The bush, though on fire, was not consumed." The bush is Mary and the fire is Jesus. The second from the book of Sirach (24: 13 & 16) "Like a cedar of Lebanon I am raised aloft, like a cypress on Mount Harmon… I spread my branches like a terebinth, my branches so bright and so graceful."
Presented by Monsignor Zaidan, Vicar General of the Maronite Archiocese of Antelias, at Visby’s Faith and Forestry Gathering.