Christmas tree

Heaven and Hell

At Mass, on the first day of Advent, a friend gave me some rosary beads.

I had three sets of rosary beads at home, but they are made of plastic.  These are different, made of wood, warm to the touch.

Instantly, they connected with my hand in a new way and spoke of two lives.

The first life belonged to a Scottish carpenter who struggled with ill health. However, he had a daughter who was strong and adept with a hammer and saw. She likes making things.

There were lopsided doll’s houses with furniture, for my sisters, a wooden train for my brother. (The wheels were bottle tops but he didn’t’ mind.)

I advanced to wooden stools, bookcases, window frames, a dog kennel.

Finally, it was a lathe and eight years of woodturning.

Always there was gratitude close to love, for the material I worked with.

Trees did not cease when they died. They lived on to serve us.

These wooden rosary beads speak in a personal way to an old woodworker.

They also speak of the great life that encloses us all.

Jesus knew wood.

His first bed was a manger, a wooden trough for animal food.

He died on wood.

All the years in between, he used wood.

We can imagine the trees that served his life.  Olive, Cyprus, Fir and Oak.

As an infant, he would play with shavings in Joseph’s workplace.

His parent’s home would have wooden beams, wooden furniture.

He sat at wooden tables, ate from wooden bowls and sailed in wooden boats.

In our reverence, we create stories of the “Holy Grail”, the chalice of the Last Supper made in gold and embellished with precious stones; it was probably made of wood.

When Jesus went to Golgotha, he would know that a tree had been killed before him, to make the cross. It seems right that they should be together this way.

So I sit here at my desk with these wooden rosary beads and come to a new awareness of Jesus, us, and our connection with trees.

Some of these thoughts are too deep for words.

I see a tree as a symbol of birth, growth, death and resurrection.

It seems appropriate that the birth of Jesus is celebrated with a decorated tree that the tree is lit in some way and that it welcomes us with gifts.

I don’t know what kind of wood is in my new rosary beads. Whatever, they were once part of a tree.

This may sound off-beat, but I think I will call these beads, my “Christmas Tree.”

  • Joy Cowley is a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and retreat facilitator.
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