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Tree of Charity

Tree of Charity So the tree of charity is nurtured in humility and branches out in true discernment. To me this tree yields the fragrance of glory and praise to my name, and so it does what I created it for and comes at least to its goal, to me, everlasting life. St Catherine of Siena : www.janrichardson.com/cardlabyrinthenlarged.html In the vision of a Tree of Charity that grows in the human heart the seeker of Piers Plowman gets a sudden sight of the spiritual potential of the soul. When he asks to ‘taste’ the apples of the tree he expresses a desire to comprehend and absorb this vision in every way, spiritually, ‘inwardly’, even physically. The devotional literature of the Middle Ages uses the figure of ‘taste’ to describe understanding which it considers to be not only cognitive but also affective and experiential; as a result of a pun on the Latin nouns sapor, ‘taste’, and sapientia, ‘wisdom’, this is ‘sapiential’ understanding.4 It is all the more disorienting, therefore, that the seeker’s desire to taste the apples of the Tree of Charity actually leads to the loss of the apples. Once removed from the tree, the apples are stolen by the devil. The seeker’s desire to assaien them appears right and virtuous, and yet it initiates a simultaneously psychological and eschatological replay of the narrative of the Fall.5 http://assets.cambridge.org/052185/6108/excerpt/0521856108_excerpt.htm
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