This week, as we journey on as a post-Easter community, perhaps the symbolism of the olive tree and its fruit will illuminate our contemplations. The cultivation and preparation of olives relies on community effort for its realisation. Olives remind us of a culture which viewed all of life as an unfolding process, in which past and present gave birth to the future. There is an Italian saying: "The almond tree I planted for myself, the vines for my son and the olive trees for my grandson."

In Jewish, Christian and Islamic tradition the olive is a `blessed tree' which appears time and again, as the symbol of peace which the dove brought back to Noah,  associated with the abundance and hospitality of Abraham, and with the gold and love of very light of God (Koran 24:35).  Jeremiah (11:16) described prosperous Israel as "a green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit."  When Federico Garcia Lorca wrote of "Angels with long braids and hearts of olive oil" he was drawing from this tradition and from the Mediterranean ancestry of a people who still see in the olive tree's many blessings a sign of abundance. The dove with an olive branch, which Wendy's lovely Paschal candle for St Paul's depicts, continues to remind me of the story of Noah, which we took with us to Nanga and have carried in our hearts ever since, through the Spring Fair and Anne's design for the float at the Freo Festival, and the Christmas and Easter altar symbols.   It's a joy to follow the thread and find a tapestry! 

This week, as we journey on as a post-Easter community, the olive tree and its fruit can inspire our contemplations. Its longevity through generations is a symbol of continuity/eternity, its multiple gifts associated with survival/abundance: the healthy olive tree is creation in process. The nutritious fruit, eaten roasted at harvest-time, is preserved in salt or oil as a food store. Olive oil, now more expensive than many fine wines, was originally not reserved just for flavouring food, but considered to have healing properties, used in religious ceremonies for anointing and prized as lamp fuel, especially sanctuary lights. (This may be the source of the superstition that spilling oil leads to bad luck - as the oil literally `kept the darkness away'). Olive groves were part of a community or family's inheritance, and so large that olive wood prunings provided cooking and heating fuel. We may each wonder which part of the olive tree we see ourselves as – new leaves, which in Islam's story of the sacred tree, are said to each bear one of the names of God written on it? Or the roots, traveling underground, not seen and yet contributing to the growth and securing the foundations of future generation's illumination and nurture? Are there parts of us that are like wood, to be pruned and burnt as fuel?  Parts pressed to yield oil? And it is the oil of sacred anointing, or a healing salve, or do we impart flavour? Are we perhaps a source of light? And which part is the flesh… lifted up by the tree, growing under the stars and moon, ripening in the sun, and finally offered to the curing process through which the hard, bitter green fruit becomes delicious food? I hope we may delight in the imagery of the tree some more at Port and Theo logy tomorrow. And to all the gardeners, picklers and enjoyers of fine Mediterranean food ... let's follow through next year on PH's suggestion and have an Easter olive harvest celebration.